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The Daly Planet

Relief Drivers

Preventable Deaths: Improving Safety at Local Tracks
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By Mike Deutsch | 06/20/2009
Category: Relief Drivers

It goes without saying that, while I think water/sand barrels are superior to tractor tires as barriers, I definitely think tires are a better barrier than nothing, and tires are what you often find at your local track.

Race tracks, like many businesses, generally maintain their physical plants in such a manner as to promote maximum productivity and profitability. A track will prefer to, say, widen pit road or add suites for sponsors, before replacing fencing or other on-track barriers. This attitude is abetted, in some aspects, by the "release policy," which basically leaves it up to the competitor to determine if the facility is safe enough for him/her to race. From the competitor's standpoint, however, if he/she doesn't sign the release, they don't race, and they don't get paid. So they sign, accept the risks that may or may not be evident to them, and unload the car.

It's only when there is a highly-publicized incident, like in the death of Dale Earnhardt, or when a rash of losses occurs as we had in the pavement Modified class back in the 80s, that public outcry demands action be taken. Thus, we have large foam blocks up against the walls of many Northeast short tracks, and SAFER barriers in NASCAR/IndyCar land. But, this is a reactive approach, rather than a proactive one.

What is needed is some sort of prodding on the part of sanctioning bodies, insurers, fan clubs, etc., to encourage these track operators -- in and out of the U.S. -- to upgrade their facilities. Perhaps a well-organized boycott, or the loss of a couple of touring-series dates, could be the deciding factor.

The loss of Senor Prado is tragic, and my heart goes out to his family, friends, and fans. Maybe this will inspire a post-Earnhardt-styled debate as to whether NASCAR Mexico and/or its member tracks are doing all they can to promote competitor safety.

I realize that most, if not all, short tracks are squeezed for cash these days, and I'm not sure if the revenue-sharing plan suggested by Richard (NASCAR using the annual collected fines and dividing them between the 75-or-so NASCAR-sanctioned local tracks, resulting in thousands of dollars towards each one every year) would help that. But some methodology -- subsidies by sanctioning bodies; lowered insurance costs; maybe fund-raising by fan club groups -- could be found to buy even the most rudimentary barrier improvements. Every little bit helps, right?



06/20/2009 4:39 pm (1)
sadly, most of the time safety = money, and those on a tighter budget often end up having to choose between safety and speed.

With racers, speed usually wins out.
06/20/2009 8:18 pm (2)
That's been pretty much the case all along. Years and years ago, Bobby Allison sat down with an insurance company, and put together a long-term disability plan designed for race drivers. And I mean all of them. Bobby, as you'll recall, was old-school. He'd race several times a week, dirt, asphalt, bullring, wherever. And everywhere he went, he'd talk to drivers about this insurance package. For the cost of, say, a right rear, they could get coverage that would protect their families in the case of a catastrophic wreck.

Trouble is, most of them bought the tire.

Of course, you know what happened...Bobby got into a bad wreck at Pocono, and his career came to an end. But, his insurance coverage was top-notch, and he came out of it in pretty decent shape -- financially, at least.

Still...even with 20-plus years of bad wrecks behind us...racers will still buy the darn tire.
06/21/2009 8:46 am (3)
And unfortunately, yesterday,Saturday, we had a death ,also... That`s 2 in 1 week, Jayski reported it if you wish to read about it...No matter how safe they make it, drivers will always take their lives in their hands when they drive...
07/15/2009 11:57 am (4)
From 1 Sr. Citizen to another: Way to rock, Mark Martin & his #5. I'm sure hopin' this is his year to win the elusive Championship he deserves! Rock on Mark, a big CHEERS!
It is hard to dive into the Jeremy Mayfield
story, since it is not a criminal charge, the presumptive 'innocent until proven guilty' does not apply to Civil action. It is heartbreaking to see all this happen, be it Jeremy of anyone else who runs afoul of the drug testing as applied by NASCAR. Bottom line is you sure as hell do not want to be on the same track doing 200mph with anyone, anywhere, who has failed a drug test.

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