Thursday, March 06, 2008

Take The Barriers Out

Jennifer Lizotte writes for the Portland Press Herald- and runs a newsy site that summarizes the day's NASCAR news. She's on to this SAFER barrier thing: a device that makes the walls "softer" when race cars imapct them inadvertantly. Honestly, I think she misses the point. If I were President of NASACAR, the first thing I would do is remove the safety barriers. Seriously.

Look, no one is anti-safety. But the number of cautions and red flags has turned this product into week-after-week of four- plus hour marathons. There was- not too long ago- a time where a real NASACAR event could be run in three hours with a mere handful of cautions routinely. Heck, they've run Bristol in the past without a single caution flag.

Frankly, NASCAR has a hockey helmet problem. The NHL mandated helmets to protect players’ heads- and "surprisingly" stick fouls and injuries to the head sky-rocketed. Putting the helmet on players’ heads removed the collective responsibility to police your stick to keep your peers from getting hurt. If you are increasing safety, while decreasing responsibility to keep one another safe, you aren’t advancing anything.

NASCAR’s never ending emphasis on safety has achieved a similar effect. They’ve made everything ostensible “safer”- and accidents are through the roof.

Even Miss Food City knows the bad lick Jeff Gordon took this weekend was because of the safety improvements- not in spite of it. Face it, everything "racing" is sacrificed to safety mandates: the endless cautions for debris, the prolonged cautions for clean up, etc. And for what? These guys simply don’t race with that respect generated from fear anymore. Daytona isn’t marred by endless crashes because of the plates or competition- but by the fact these guys don’t think they can get hurt. You wouldn’t see half the craziness, the running with wounded, ill-handling cars- if these guys thought they could get seriously injured.

Remove the safer barriers and drivers would drive with “respect”: fewer cautions, fewer accidents, better safer racing.

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