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Angry Drivers Take To Twitter After Busch Wreck

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 22 2015

Rescue personnel surround the site where Kyle Busch was injured at Daytona International Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tom Copeland)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

In the time that it took for Kyle Busch’s Toyota to blow through a couple of hundred yards of painted grass and soft, sandy earth and then slam into a solid concrete wall at 180 or so mph on Saturday, the Daytona Rising project at Daytona International Speedway was transformed from an under-construction playground for racing fans to a question mark for safety advocates.

As live video of an obviously in agony Busch being duct taped onto a gurney after his Xfinity Series car slammed nearly head-on into the concrete barrier that separates the front stretch at DIS from the infield rolled on, driver after driver took too social media to do some slamming of their own.

The common thread was: How in the world could those who run – and are in the process of improving – DIS leave such an obviously dangerous wall naked in terms of SAFER barriers?

And at the very track where, in 2001, the death of icon Dale Earnhardt Sr. brought the dangers of mixing speeding stock cars and concrete walls to the front pages of newspapers world-wide.

It was announced Saturday that Busch – who was to have started the Daytona 500 from the second row – had suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg. He will be replaced in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by Camping World Truck Series two-time champion Matt Crafton for the 500 at least.

Joe Gibbs, owner of JGR, was scheduled to meet with the media on Sunday morning to discus the accident and his driver’s condition. (This story will be updated after the Gibbs press conference.)

Nobody had to hold a press conference to get Busch’s peers’ sentiments.

Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson tweeted, “Man I hope Kyle Busch is alright… It’s beyond me why we don’t have soft walls everywhere.”

Regan Smith, who will take the seat of suspended Kurt Busch in the 500, tweeted, “I’m genuinely furious right now. Any wall in any of the top 3 series without safer barriers is INEXCUSABLE. It’s 2015.”

Kasey Kahne tweeted, “All we do is wreck at Daytona and that massive wall has no safer barrier? Unbelievable! Hope Kyle is ok…”

Crew chief Rodney Childers of Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted, “I’m sorry.. But there shouldn’t be any walls anywhere without safer barriers…”

Joey Logano, Busch’s former teammate, tweeted, “Hate it for you KyleBusch. Get well and get back in the car soon. And let’s get SAFER barriers everywhere.”

And on and on social media raged in the aftermath.

Much to his credit, Joie Chitwood III, president of DIS, issued a mea culpa and vowed that SAFTER barriers – walls that feature flexible steel railing backed by foam blocks – will be installed “on every inch of our property.”

“The Daytona International Speedway did not live up to its responsibility today,” Chitwood told reporters. “We should have had SAFER barrier there. We’re going to fix that. We’re going to fix that right now.”

When people around the sport are asked why every inch of wall at every NASCAR track is not already covered with SAFER, the answer is almost always “cost”.

Yes, it would cost millions to cover all walls at Daytona. But, apparently, DIS has millions.

Daytona Rising is a $400 million redevelopment project. It will add everything from more seating to fan amenities like escalators and “neighborhoods” scattered throughout the track which opened in 1959.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2016 but many of the features of the redesign are already highly apparent at DIS.

Not apparent were “soft walls” where Busch was injured.

In the wake of Earnhardt’s death 14 years ago, much has been done by NASCAR, track owners and team engineers to make racing the heavy, low downforce stock cars safer for drivers.

Countless lives have been saved by NASCAR’s actions on safety improvements at tracks and in cockpits.

But clearly, gaps still exist. Like the one on the frontstretch wall at DIS where Busch suffered a smashed leg.

It’s just a shame that everybody has to be reminded of those things on a way-too-often basis.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 22 2015
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