I bid you welcome gentle readers, to wherever it is this day takes us. It’s early on Saturday afternoon as I pull up to the keyboard, and the Xfinity cars are just going out for first round of qualifying. And… as they began the second group of the first session of “Maniac Patrol”, half the field wrecked and now it’s raining on the world of Brian France.
It’s been an interesting week, depending on your definition of “Interesting.” Aside from the ARCA race, which isn’t under NASCAR sanction, there have been 3 races, the Dual Duels and the Truck race, many practice sessions among the three top tiers and two qualifying sessions plus the wrecking now in progress. My calculator doesn’t have enough zeroes to calculate the money lost as car after car after truck has become part of the ever increasing pile of twisted sheet metal and/or carbon fiber that stands as a monument to plate track racing. What’s that you say? You’re right! I do not like it Sam-I-Am!
Knock-out qualifying, for those not familiar with it, has been used by the Fomula-1 series for years, and it is exciting. It’s exciting in NASCAR as well, everywhere that restrictor plates are not part of the equation. Having said that, this race fan is almost dreading Atlanta, as that will be the first test of the new and “restricted” engines of 2015. Once again, allow me to remind everyone that “tapered spacers” are indeed, restrictor plates. The only time in the “Modern era” when plates have been used on an unrestricted track (one that isn’t Daytona or Talladega) was at Loudon in the fall of 2000, following the deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr. at that track. It was a colossal bust! On that flat one-mile track, no one could pass, and I do mean no one. Jeff Burton started on the pole and led all 300 laps of that parade. Will that be Atlanta next week? I truly hope not.
Tapered spacer ~ any questions?
Now, since I’m writing before the final two races of the weekend, let’s move to another pressing bit of news, that of driver Kurt Busch being indefinitely suspended for allegations of abuse. The suspension is, at this very moment, under appeal. Until or unless criminal charges are lodged against Kurt Busch and he stands convicted of them that will not be a topic of discussion in this column. In my America, “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” still prevails.
So, as the saying goes, I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse. Let’s assume that everyone reading here either saw or knows about the huge wreck in the Xfinity race at Daytona yesterday that sent Kyle Busch’s Toyota screaming across the grass and head-on into an unprotected and unforgiving concrete wall. As always in such an instance, the weakest part of the automobile is the driver. A stop that sudden creates unimaginable G-forces, as the metal and fiber parts have no choice but to stop, while the driver’s body, even though belted and secured by various man-made devices, attempts to keep moving forward. See: Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion.
Kyle was transported directly to Halifax Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a compound fracture of his right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot. Allusions have been made to other lesser injuries and to concussion, but this scribe has seen no proof of that other than Twitter chatter. My thoughts and prayers, along with those of most everyone I know, go out to Kyle and Sam at this time, along with his brother Kurt and the Busch parents. Kyle won’t be dancing anytime soon, but a complete recovery is our hope.
Meanwhile, back at DIS… did she say concrete? Oh yes she did. Word came out immediately and irrefutably that there was no SAFER barrier at point of impact, or anywhere nearby. At this point, I’ll resist the almost overwhelming urge to open up a huge can of “I told you so” and pour it all over the smug grin on the face of Brian Z. France. I am, after all, a lady of some age and refinement. Besides, I didn’t just tell you Brian; I begged and pleaded with you, over and over again. Your answer has always been the same. NASCAR knows best and we fans are only reacting to the present and not considering the whole picture.
Today, the whole picture is of Kyle Busch lying in a hospital bed with both legs immobilized and needing copious amounts of pain medication, I’m sure. Today, he won’t be in his #18 when the field takes the green for the 57th running of the Great American Race. Kyle Busch won’t race for some time to come Brian, and it’s because even with $400-Million of our tax money at your disposal to spend on the Daytona track alone, you couldn’t find it in your heart to allocate the small portion of that it would have taken to put SAFER barriers all around your grandfather’s pride and joy.
It was nice of Joie Chitwood III to shoulder the blame, but we know, you and I, where that blame belongs. The buck stops with the same guy that gets all the bucks when the counting is done. Mr. Chitwood said last night at a hastily assembled press conference that the fault in this case was on DIS, and that the barriers would be in place at every point around the track, inside and out, before the next race there. For the Daytona 500, still pending as I type, we’re to have an 850-foot tire barrier in place where yesterday’s brutal wreck occurred. Too little, too late, especially for Kyle. What about the other tracks Brian? All but three belong to ISC and SMI, and Bruton Smith has never shied from spending fortunes to make someone named France look bad. For those counting on fingers right now, the three “Maverick” tracks are Indy, Pocono and Dover.
This time, something resonated that hasn’t with other wrecks that could have ended badly, and not only the rabid fans that disgust you so, but highly respected members of the NASCAR media are not asking or suggesting but demanding those barriers be erected immediately at the remainder of unprotected areas at every feasible track. Many thanks to media members such as Marty Smith and Larry McReynolds for not being afraid to say what is needed and speaking for so many of us that have been ignored far too long. Those barriers should have been in place everywhere at every track some dozen years ago. Until Saturday, we’d been very lucky, but the sight of Kyle Busch being lifted into that ambulance and heading out, not for infield care but for Halifax, was eerily familiar.
Brian, you were probably still on the West Coast when that other ambulance rolled slowly out of DIS in the direction of Halifax Medical Center. It was to become an event that changed stock car racing forever. This is your chance to change it for the good. Don’t talk about it; don’t stop to think it over… just do it!
Joie, quit insisting it wasn’t about the money. Of course it was about the money. What else would prompt you to play roulette with the lives of drivers? Just fix it!
Steve, it’s very nice to say that now, after all these years, NASCAR is going to fix the problem once and for all. That’s the same thing Mike Helton told us at least three years ago. Quit procrastinating! Get off your duff and “Git ‘er done!”
Gentle readers and fellow media members, the word I’ve heard repeated over and over again in relation to this latest brutal crash and the resulting severe injuries is “Outrage!” Yes, my friends, it is an outrage, pure and simple, so let’s not let them forget it. Keep on demanding until we get action. We’ve heard promise after promise for too many years. Make them act in the name of driver safety!
Brian, on second thought, don’t you do a thing; just back away slowly and let the others do their thing. This needs to be done in this lifetime.
Sorry, but no Classic Country Closeout this time. It’s nearing time for the Daytona 500 and I’m going racing!
Be well gentle readers and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!