I get it. Racing cars can be dangerous. We have lost people in NASCAR, and one sad day, despite all the advances that have been made regarding safety, we just may lose somebody else. I hope not, but that is the reality we must face. All we can do is greatly reduce the odds.
Great leaps have been made in regards to producing a safer vehicle. Asphalt has replaced grass in many infields, though not all. Berms and gate openings are no longer an infield feature. SAFER barriers in front of concrete walls have made even the worst crashes survivable. However, if there is any chance a vehicle can be deflected in a direction that could put it on a path to hit concrete, it will.
The crash that left Austin Theriault with a compression fracture in his lower back last weekend in the Las Vegas truck race likely could have been less than it was if there had been a SAFER barrier where he hit. Teammate Josh Reddick had crashed in front of him, and when he spilled back onto the track he clipped Theriault, sending him sharply to his right and straight into the concrete wall. Should there have been a SAFER barrier in that location? Damn right. Will there be in the future? Only if driver safety is a real concern and if someone in charge has the brains to see the danger, in Las Vegas and elsewhere, and deals with it.
To be honest, I thought most tracks now had the barriers in such locations. I was wrong. Hopefully, NASCAR will finally make it right. All they need to do is remember that if it can happen to a billiard ball, it can happen to a race car.
Unless one has locked a place, either through a win or an insurmountable points lead, you can get caught by surprise. Jimmie Johnson was reminded of that in Dover when a $50 rear axle seal failed and sent him to the garage for more than 35 laps. That plunged him to beyond 40th on the track on a day when 28th or better would have saved him.
Kevin Harvick saved himself in winning last Sunday, and he heads to a track he won on last October. Johnson has seven career wins at Charlotte. That just does not matter as much as it did last week.
The Hot 20 heading into Charlotte include…
1. MATT KENSETH – 5 WINS
If one win was all it took to win a title, he did it. If it takes five or more, no problem.
2. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS
Challenged at Dover, finished third, but made it to the next round by a single point.
3. JOEY LOGANO – 3 WINS
If you like this year’s racing, Logano figures we will love 2016’s lower downforce package.
3. KEVIN HARVICK – 3 WINS
Won last October and is seeking to make it two in a row.
5. DENNY HAMLIN – 2 WINS
History shows that Hamlin won’t win Saturday night, but it will not be a disaster, either.
5. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS
Can spring success equate into a fall classic?
5. KURT BUSCH – 2 WINS
Difference between Kurt and Jamie…two points…and he was tied for sixth in the standings!
5. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 2 WINS
Exciting enough for you?
9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN
Tech issues caused him to start last, 11th place kept him in the Chase by six positions.
10. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN
Re-starting with the same number of points as everyone else in the Chase…and no black flag.
11. JEFF GORDON – 3000 POINTS
Handing over to Junior a sponsor. Maybe he could also loan him a championship.
11. RYAN NEWMAN – 3000 POINTS
A winless championship season is still possible.
13. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 2098 POINTS
Rowdy by a point, Junior by a position, as Jamie is left waiting at the altar.
14. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2086 POINTS
All for the want of a damn $50 car part.
15. PAUL MENARD – 2075 POINTS
If Johnson had finished 25th like Menard at Dover, Jimmie would still be in the Chase.
16. CLINT BOWYER – 2048 POINTS
So concludes the title hopes of Toyota supported Michael Waltrip Racing (2007-2015).
17. KASEY KAHNE – 770 POINTS
All that is left is to win the battle against Almirola. That is all.
18. ARIC ALMIROLA – 767 POINTS
Driving a Ford…will keep on driving a Ford next season.
19. KYLE LARSON – 718 POINTS
For a time, it appeared he might prove to be Harvick’s spoiler last week.
20. GREG BIFFLE – 706 POINTS
At least Roush-Fenway should finish the season with a single Top 20 entry. Exciting stuff.