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Minter: Sprint Cup Racing Is Speeding Toward Trouble

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 7 2009
The car of Kyle Busch gets hit from behind by that of Kasey Kahne during Sunday's race at Daytona. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The car of Kyle Busch gets hit from behind by that of Kasey Kahne during Sunday's race at Daytona. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Among the many empty seats in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway last week was the one usually occupied by David Poole.

Poole wasn’t there because he died on April 28, just two days after covering the race at Talladega Superspeedway in which Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards wrecked heading for the finish line with Edwards’ car sailing into the catch fence injuring several fans.

Other media types weren’t at Daytona because their employers eliminated the traveling NASCAR beat in an attempt to survive a sagging economy.

Some might ask why that matters. There are still wire service reports of the races. TV networks still carry the action.

The outcome of Saturday’s race illustrated why there’s a need for people like Poole to be on the job at the race track.

Once again, a restrictor-plate race ended with a horrific crash. Kyle Busch moved to block eventual winner Tony Stewart as the two raced to the checkered flag. There was contact. Busch’s car crashed into the wall, then was hammered by the oncoming car of Kasey Kahne. Then he was hit in the left side by his own teammate, Joey Logano. Mercifully, no drivers or fans were injured.

Not surprisingly, none of the drivers involved offered some of the solutions that have been put forth by Poole and other veteran media members, who have suggested changes to the race tracks themselves to put the control of  events back into the individual drivers’ hands and prevent dangerous crashes.

As it is now, shoving, bump drafting and blocking have become acceptable tactics at Daytona and Talladega, the two giant tracks where restrictor plates are used to lower speeds on race courses that were built years ago with speed in mind. Unfortunately for the sport, the designers of those tracks didn’t factor in the fact that one day cars that could run so fast they’d become airborne.

“It just is what it is,” said race winner Tony Stewart, who was noticeably subdued in his post-race interview and in Victory Lane. “I just don’t feel as much gratification from winning this race as I probably should.  I don’t like the way the outcome happened….I don’t want any part of earning a race because the guy that was leading the race got wrecked….

“It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just racing. It’s a product of the environment. It doesn’t mean the environment is bad, it just means that’s the way it is.  Like I said, he did what he had to do, and he defended his spot and we held our [ground].”

Busch was unavailable for comment afterwards, but his crew chief Steve Addington echoed Stewart’s sentiments.

“This is a product of restrictor-plate racing with these race cars,” he said.

Second-finishing Jimmie Johnson had no answers either.

“There is nothing to do to stop it,” he said. “If you think about the position that the sport is in – one race, it’s boring, there’s no racing, there’s no excitement.  And then a couple races there’s an exciting finish and we’re worried about the exciting finish. It’s plate racing.”

Johnson said that as far as he’s concerned, NASCAR and its drivers are in a no-win situation when it comes to racing at Daytona and Talladega.

“Every time we use the restrictor plate tracks there’s questions about how we can keep from having the big wreck and things like that, and you just can’t,” he said. “When you run plates and we run wide open all the way around the track, situations like this come around.”

But as long as “situations like this come around” and nothing is ever done to the race tracks or the cars and the media types don’t push for changes, there’s a good chance that a driver or fans will be seriously hurt or worse.

The final sentence David Poole ever had published sums it up best:

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

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 7 2009
7 Comments

7 Comments »

  • Monte Dutton says:

    Racers are racers. What’s changed at Daytona and Talladega isn’t the nature of the drivers. It’s the nature of the cars.

  • SallyB says:

    The crash going to the chedkers this time wasn’t caused by a tight pack of cars racing together. It was caused by a driver trying to block, rather than race, to the lead one time too many. Restrictor plates had nothing to do with this one.

  • Big Alice says:

    Bill H makes a good point…way back before plates, I can recall drivers mainly blocking the inside, but certainly NOT the swerving back and forth like now. And THAT’S what got Kyle wrecked…pretty much what crashed Dale Sr too. Perhaps if they are gonna insist on using plates, and the drivers are gonna swerve back and forth like that, they need to take that ability away…take some grip OUT too. Less downforce, less tires, something along those lines.

  • Roland says:

    CONTROL do we realy want it??
    When we can predict whats going to happen where will the fans and the drivers be.

  • Bill H says:

    “There is nothing to do to stop it,”

    Yes there is, the drivers could stop driving like idiots. Back in the day before the plate there used to be a lengthy draft and a car would pull out to pass; several would follow and that pack would just blow the doors off the helpless leader. There was never a wreck at that point. Why not? Because the lead car being passed never did something really stupid like swerving in an attempt to prevent the cars that were in the act of passing him from getting by him.

    • marc says:

      Recall the ending of the seventy-nine Daytona five-hundred.

      There are many more examples that disprove your theory Bill H.