Pete Smith



I saw the ending to the NASCAR race I was horrified


 Last Sunday when I saw the ending to the NASCAR race I was horrified, not because of the fighting name calling or on track antics, but because of the sudden realization of how the sport had changed. I have no problem with or maybe, I should say I have no opinion on the confrontations and words exchanged between drivers. It is an emotional sport and from time to time emotions will overcome discretion, and those raw emotions are what makes our sport great even if it causes some actions that in hindsight may seem rather unintelligent. What bothered me to no end about last week was the way Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano raced each other on the final circuit of Autoclub Speedway in Fontana. At one of NASCARís higher speed tracks they were inviting contact and racing in a way that showed a lack of respect for each other as well as for other drivers safety as a whole. It brought me to the realization of how far the element of danger had been removed from the sport. 15 years ago an incident like that would have been far less likely to occur just simply because an accident at those speeds then could have had dire consequences. I donít blame Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin for what occurred, times are different now and to NASCARís credit they have made an exceptionally safe race car and series. Going into that last corner no one could have foreseen an accident that put a driver in the hospital, look what Kyle Larson walked away from at Daytona earlier in the year.  Yet, t he way the events unfolded are one of the main reasons I no longer consider myself a fan of NASCAR. The incident brought me to the conclusion that drivers no loner have to accept the notions  that they could be injured at any moment and that they are putting as much trust in themselves as in their fellow competitors when they step in the cars.            What happened between  Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin showed a complete lack of respect for the repercussions of an incident at those speeds. Itís this lack of respect and complacency that make the product NASCAR presents on track unremarkable to some. Maybe that is why Iím drawn to openwheel racing and Indycar, The consequences of racing like Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano did on Sunday are so great in an openwheel car, you will never see it, and by car design alone in openwheel racing you are somewhat forced to respect your competitor.

Racing has come so far in terms of safety over my lifetime that few driver today would even consider stepping behind the wheel of the cars I saw when I was young. All the safety improvements are great for the sport, but to me as a lifelong fan, part of racing will always be the essence of danger.  When you remove it, it changes the sport from crucible of speed and daring  to a just showcase of driving skill, not much different from drifting which Iím sure is fine for some. One of the reasons racing is such an attractive sport is because of chances a driver takes in the rudimentary struggle of self preservation versus the will to win. This primordial basis is taken from the sport when a driver can turn down on a pack of cars at 195 mph at Talladega to block and walk happily away from the ensuing 25 car pile-up. Moreover, I have a hard time accepting the time honored portrayal of a race car driver being a brave daredevil confidently ignoring the risk of bodily harm, when I can think of no better way of inviting it.

Many will read this and say Iím old fashion and times have changed but the drivers of NASCAR today donít encompass the heroic properties that their predecessors did.  Itís this change that has drawn some fans away from NASCAR. Look at the extreme sports figures who are so popular with the youth of are county now, it now these figures who are truly risking there lives for their sport. without statistics to back me up, it appears infinitely safer being in a NASCAR gen 6 car at 200 mhp and then taking a 30 ft jump on a snowboard. Yet, like every true race fan I donít want to see drivers injured. I just firmly believe it is the aspect of danger and the spectacle of potential disaster that makes racing such an alluring sport. I have no answers about how to reintroduce that facet of sport, nor am I sure it should be reintroduced, after Sundayís race the only thing Iím certain of is that NASCAR has changed
















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Revised: April 01, 2013