Once again this year, a driver has been injured after hitting a non-SAFER barrier wall.
Brad Keselowski Racing driver Austin Theriault was airlifted out of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 3 after a hard crash into a non-SAFER wall. Theriault sustained a 10 percent compression fracture in his back, and it is currently unknown when or if he will return to his truck this year.
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that any wall in NASCAR’s top three series isn’t SAFER barrier protected. The only real case one can make toward not having it is Eldora Speedway due to the low speeds.
“But it’s expensive!”
Yes, it does cost around $500 a foot to install. But this is a sport that is getting a meager $820 million per year for TV rights. This is a sport where tracks are getting millions upon millions of dollars just for TV rights. This is just one revenue stream, never mind ticket sales and merchandise.
I said last year that the lack of SAFER barriers was a huge problem that needs to be addressed. I was ignored. Then Kyle Busch broke his legs at Daytona. I thought maybe, just maybe, this would be the wake-up call this sport needs before a real tragedy happens. Nope. It’s still a big problem over seven months later.
I still stand by with what I predicted last year. If this is not addressed, there will be a driver death within the next few years. And when it happens, NASCAR will flip the switch and make SAFER barriers mandatory a day late and a driver short. It happened with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the HANS device, it’s going to happen again soon.
I try not to be angry when writing Finley Factors, but this is the exception to the rule. It’s something people in 30-50 years will look back on and say, “Wait, we raced without those?” like we do now with helmets or seatbelts. It’s just a true shame that this isn’t being done because men in business suits want to make this year’s earnings report look just a little better.
It would be such an easy thing to add to the rule book; “All track surface walls at all NASCAR National touring races must have SAFER barriers, with no exceptions”. Bristol does it. Daytona is doing it. There is no excuse. If a track cannot afford the SAFER Barrier, drop them from the sport until they can. They’ll find the money on the bench.
Believe me, I want to be wrong on my prediction. I want everybody to point and laugh at me this off-season if they were to make SAFER barriers at all tracks mandatory. I would be overjoyed. But with the way history is written, I have to stand by it. We are doomed to repeat it, after all.
Charlotte Preview – The First Race of the Contender Round of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup:
Kevin Harvick, as usual, came through last weekend at Dover International Speedway when he needed to the most, leading over 350 laps before winning easily. It was kind of like seeing a great UFC fighter who can’t finish, so he just destroys his opponent before winning by a 10-9 decision in all three rounds. Anyway, Harvick leaves Dover and moves on to Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of his best tracks. The defending champion won this race last season and that locked Harvick into the next round regardless of what happened at Talladega Superspeedway. Expect these next two races to be just that, with guys going crazy to get a win and be safe heading into the one true wild card race in the Chase. Harvick’s last 10 starts at Charlotte have him winning three times with top-10s in all but one race and an incredible 5.8 average finish.
This has always been a good race track for Matt Kenseth. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has three top-fives in his last four starts here and in total holds two career victories at Charlotte.
Although he holds no victories here, this has been a solid track for Denny Hamlin. Save for the 2012 Coca-Cola 600, he hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 at Charlotte since 2010. Don’t be surprised to see Hamlin get rid of the goose egg. Teammate Carl Edwards just picked up his first win at Charlotte in this year’s Coca-Cola 600.
Hamlin and Edwards’ teammate Kyle Busch also doesn’t have a victory at Charlotte in the Sprint Cup Series. With the exception of his return race from a broken leg in the spring, Busch has either DNF’d or finished in the top-10 in every race at Charlotte since 2007.
Jimmie Johnson has been inconsistent at Charlotte lately but don’t count him out. He still has won 25 percent of his starts or seven total victories, at “the Beast of the Southeast.” With Johnson out of the Chase, he doesn’t have anything to lose and remember, Carl Edwards won the 600 in May by rolling the dice on fuel strategy.