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Minter: They’re Going 200 mph Again At Talladega

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 29 2009

Carl Edwards had to leg it to the checkered flag after last-lap crash on Sunday at Talladega. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Edwards had to leg it to the checkered flag after last-lap crash on Sunday at Talladega. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

In his final column, David Poole called for changes to the race track at Talladega Superspeedway to prevent a disaster from happening in light of the Carl Edwards crash at the end of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

 Poole pointed out that changes to the cars, restrictor plates, yellow line rules and other measures haven’t fixed the problems that come with racing on a track designed to be as fast as possible. He said racing at Talladega is out of control and suggested changing the banking in the turns or the shape or size of the race track.

 Jimmie Johnson, on a teleconference Tuesday, said lowering the banking in the turns is the only way he sees to put drivers in a position where they have to lift off the throttle at some point. That, he said, would break up the b ig packs which would make drafting less of a factor and the racing safer for drivers and fans alike.

 Dale Earnhardt Jr. echoed the sentiments of track and NASCAR officials when he said that’s not likely to happen.

 “People have talked about changing the track,” he said. “That’s impossible to do. There’s no way you can justify it under the current economic state of the sport, of the track itself, of the company that owns the track. 

 “So the track is not going to change. They just need to look in some other areas.”

NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said series officials likely will begin issuing penalties to drivers who race too aggressively.

 “We tried letting the competitors police themselves when it comes to blocking and bump drafting.  After reviewing all of those procedures, we might have to start making some judgment calls of our own and penalize, issue penalties for drivers who blatantly block and abuse the bump drafting,” Hunter said. “We are going to take whatever measures we need to in order to ensure the races are as safe as possible for everyone.”

Johnson and Dale Earnhart Jr. both say that penalties are problematic because drivers will still try every trick they know to win a race. They’re race drivers, and as such will do whatever it takes to beat a competitor.

“I would advise against doing anything extra or being stricter,” Earnhardt said. “You run the risk of taking the race out of the drivers’ hands.  I think we do a good job of policing it pretty much on our own now.

“I mean, it is a race. First and foremost, we’re out there racing. Blocking, weaving, carrying on is part of the game.”

Earnhardt did offer one bit of information that sheds a lot of light on why cars are flying again at Talladega.

He said Brad Keselowski ran an average speed of 199 miles per hour when he was pushing Carl Edwards to the front at the finish. Earnhardt himself and his drafting partner Ryan Newman were just a tick slower, he said, adding that both duos were far faster than the 190 miles per hour limit that NASCAR seeks at Talladega.

“We are doing 10 more miles an hour being able to tag up and run bumper to bumper like we are,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where the threshold is for cars getting airborne, is about the 195 mile-an-hour range.

“We have to think what we can do to get back under that threshold a little bit and not create this situation in the future. 

“It’s always been there. We just have been lucky.”

With each passing day, the worries about Talladega likely will ease, as they usually do.

This time around, David Poole won’t be around to press the issue. His final column, published the day he died at age 50, closed with several questions, which someone else will have to seek the answers for.

Here are his final four paragraphs:

All I want is for someone to tell me what’s acceptable. We apparently established Sunday that seven fans being injured – one spent the night in a hospital with a broken jaw – is OK.

“It seems we’ve decided we can live with that much damage being done to the sport’s customers for ‘good racing.’

“How many people have to be listed in ‘guarded’ or ‘critical’ condition before we say that’s too much? Is it lead changes? If we have fewer than five fans hurt for every lead change, is that acceptable?

“Does somebody have to die before we’ve decided we don’t have control?”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 29 2009


  • Billy Bob says:

    Benny Parson solved the problem years ago – put a chicane on the back stretch.

    • Rick Minter says:

      Billy Bob,
      That’s one of several suggestions. Engine builder Ernie Elliott has said for years that working on the banking would help.

  • Charles says:

    Look I dont want to see someone fan, driver anyone hurt or killed!
    But look 3 people were killed on Interstate I 95 North Carolina mile marker 7, when a driver crossed the center line and hit another car head on and killing 3 people! When the cars are hauled in and the debris is hauled away,if the past history is used nothing will be done, the speed limit will stay the same and three people with loving families will miss a loved one!

    In Nascar or anytime you are in a racecar you need to accept it as a reality that can happen, freak accidents is ususally what happens!I remember Cale Yarbrourgh in the 1965 Southern 500 going out the track running apox 140 mile per hour, he could just as easly went in the stands!

    My point is I am for safety, but when a driver is making millions a year driving a racecar just because a bad or freak accident occurs he should accept just as the family on the highway!

  • […] Minter: They’re Going 200 mph Again At Talladega By Rick Minter | Senior Writer In his final column, David Poole called for changes to the race track at Talladega Superspeedway to prevent a disaster from happening in light of the Carl Edwards crash at … http://www.racintoday.com/archives/2916 […]

  • Barbara says:

    I give pit tours and garage tours to chalet and suite guests at Kansas Speedway. My volunteer part of the Pit Tour Club is that I was assigned giving pit tours through the NASCAR GARAGES.Before bringing my assigned group to the garages, I was in the garage finding out more info to be usded in my talk to the group.

    David Poole was siting beside Lynn Wood in front of the Wood’s Brothers’ Transporter. I asked what he would want me to be sure to tell my group.(It was following a qualifying session)He immediately wanted me to realize the signicance of how close the times are.Thousandths of a second had just decided who had qualified and who went home. He said, “Make sure to tell your groups just how close qualifications can be as that decided who races and who goes home”. This happened in the Cup 2008 race weekend.

    I asked Lynn Wood what he wanted me to tell my group about his transporter. He invited me in, introduced me to Bill Eliott, and then proceeded to open each door to show me what each cabinet holds and how that affects the race team. He moved the roof hatch to show me the back-up car.

    They were so generouo with their time and being helpful whith giving me more information to share with my groups that receive a garage tour.

    It was a wonderful experience for me and my guests.

  • marc says:

    Let me start by saying I’ve been an advocate for a smaller engine size, smaller carb or both for some time.

    All sides to this debate have valid points, but one thing sticks in my craw.

    I distinctly recall NASCAR saying the Gold Standard so to speak on speeds was 190mph.

    What happened, so much for that “standard.” Last years August MIS event pole was 4 tenths of a second faster (with drafts speeds of 205) than this years Daytona 500. Texas a couple weeks ago was 191mph with drafting speeds well over 200.

    Some say the problem only lays at the feet of the two superspeedways, I say hooey that’s due to the shear Grace of God and luck.

    Someone will be riding a fence at one of the other tracks sooner or later.

  • Chuck says:

    This all depends on what everyone is trying to fix — cars getting in the air of “The Big One” or cars running in a big pack. Slowing them down may help reduce the car’s propensity for getting airborne, but it will not eliminate it.

    Slowing them down will still keep them in a big pack. When they all run the same speed whether it is 160 or 190, they will run together.

    Remember the smaller fuel cell to “force” green flag fuel stops? That really didn’t work well did it?

    Cars packed together on lap 6 crashing will make a mess no matter where you race.

    Even if you reduce the engine to a size that can be unrestricted so there is variance in horsepower to help cars separate, the draft keeps them more together. You might get a long train of cars traveling at 160, but if they crash it will still take out a bunch.

    And then wouldn’t you just call it the Nationwide series?

    • Rick Minter says:


      NASCAR has been trying for years to make changes to the cars to address the problems that come with racing at Talladega, but a good solution continues to elude them. That’s why a lot of people, including Jimmie Johnson, and others are saying that the race track needs to be altered.