by: Tim Leeming
First and foremost in these thoughts is the prayer of thanks that no one was killed in the horrendous end to the Nationwide race this past Saturday. For those of us watching it live, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. I doubt there is anyone in the civilized world who has not yet seen the replay of that accident or, at the very least, the still photographs that are, themselves, terrifying. I have had folks who have never given a hoot about racing asking me what I think of the fact that fans in the grandstands were injured and could have easily been killed. I have, in the past three days, heard from more “experts” in the fields of catch fencing and crossover gates than I even knew existed. Seems everyone now wants to jump on the bandwagon to criticize NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway for what happened there Saturday. I am not one of those. Please allow me to explain that statement.
I have been critical, and with just cause, of NASCAR’s less than stellar efforts in the past to improve the safety for the drivers. We lost several good drivers because of the failure by NASCAR to implement certain improvements in the tracks and, from what I understand, the HANS device could have saved the lives of all those drivers we lost, including Dale, Sr. I’m no expert, of course, but that is what I have been told by more than one person far more educated in such areas of driver safety. The efforts made by NASCAR to that end are to be applauded.
Now, as for fan safety in the grandstands, that should be a “given”. A fan should be able to bring his family into the track, sit back, and enjoy the spectacle of speed, color and sound before him with no fear of having a flying racecar land in his lap. I know this. You know this. NASCAR knows this. So, here’s where I’ll get blasted for this opinion but I’m going to say it anyway. I feel that NASCAR has taken every possible precaution for the safety of the fans, as has Daytona International Speedway. What happened Saturday was a freak accident. Sure, over the years, cars and parts have come into the stands and each time NASCAR has taken safety measures as far as their technology allows, to see that it doesn’t happen again. Saturday’s accident was a circumstance that hasn’t happened in thousands of laps around the speedways across the country and is unlikely to happen again. Please note that the catch fence DID stop the main part of the debris from flying into the stands. The errant tire that launched itself into the stands apparently cleared the fence. I’m sure NASCAR is already looking into how much higher they would need the fence to have prevented that or other measures to prevent tires and wheels from becoming airborne missiles of destruction..
From what I have seen and read, the fans, as almost is always the case with NASCAR fans, jumped in to provide immediate assistance to the injured. Watch some of the video shot from a person in the stands right where the tire landed. Did you read about the one fan who was in the hospital and his main complaint was that he was having to miss the race? Not trying to make light of this tragic situation, but that’s what NASCAR fans are about. Did you ever stop to think that YOU are in more danger driving down the highway to the grocery store than you are sitting on the front row of the grandstands at a NASCAR race? Yep, that’s a fact.
Ok, let’s look at this from the drivers’ standpoint. I think Tony Stewart’s actions and remarks after the race show absolute class. He didn’t have time to rehearse his remarks or be tele-prompted with what to say. He spoke from his heart and said all the right things. Makes you know he appreciates the fans. What about Kyle Larson? The only interview I saw with him, he appeared to be in shock. I know, from personal experience, what it is to cause injury to a fan. That ended my budding racing career, not that I would have ever been a star, but I couldn’t bear what I had done to another human being with a racecar. After that accident, which by the way, was at Myrtle Beach Speedway, my life took a drastic turn. Took five years to get back on course and then The Good Lord opened up doors for me and I found Ann and now, 30 years later, I can look at things much differently. Even so, I will never forget that night in June, 1973, when my racecar went through the infield fence.
I’m asking that we all please allow NASCAR time to assess what happened Saturday and we can all be assured appropriate actions will be taken to do everything humanly possible to see such a thing does not happen again.
Now, let’s talk about the racing. I’m going to call it as I saw it here. If you don’t like it, jump up and say something. Many of you already have, through emails and comments on the site and on the other Social Media site I frequent. As for the Twins, or the Duels, or the Duals (with an “a”) or whatever the 150s on Thursday were called, I thought we had some good racing. Competitive and exciting. The Camping World Truck race, good racing and I was satisfied. Nationwide, but for the accident, some good competitive racing. I saw passing, pack racing, tandem racing… just about everything. I think those boys put on a great race except for that ending. The Daytona 500? Well, what do you folks think? I watched every lap that FOX allowed us to see and several times there I thought it was Thanksgiving Day and I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I kept waiting for Santa Claus to come along. As for the hot air balloons, they weren’t missing, especially considering who was in the booth for the broadcast. I’ve already heard the comments about what is it going to take to please us fans. I’m not sure what it will take to please most of you but for me, I want to see some racing. I watched 43 cars start a race that almost immediately settled into a follow the leader, do not dare move out to pass, parade. Nowhere in my definition of “racing” does that come into focus. The last few laps were pretty good, but the end result was almost predictable when Jimmie got the lead with the restart coming up. Maybe if Denny Hamlin could learn to draft up on the back of someone, Brad K may have won in that battered Ford of his. I would have hated it if I had paid good money for a ticket to that race and watched a parade of cars for 490 miles with only 10 miles of racing. What the Bell and Bell boys did on the beach last week had to be FAR more exciting than what I watched on television Sunday. I was let down, tremendously, after anticipating a very exciting race in the 500. By lap 50, my hot air balloon had burst and I resigned myself to watching Thomas the Tank Engine perform as I used to do with the grandson Sam. He really loved that Thomas the Tank Engine.
Now, moving on. If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series of books, you may not know of the person “who shall not be named” as was the villain in the Potter saga referenced. Although I do not consider her a “villain” I will not name a certain driver, as my e-mails and even a couple of telephone calls have assured me that if her name is never heard again by those parties it will be too soon. After listening to D.W. go into hysterics several times Sunday, I can understand the comments I’ve heard. I was even tired of it. I understand D.W. is going to get a promotional deal with Depends for the rest of the FOX season as he wet his pants when “she who shall not be named” took the lead. I said, in last week’s Legendtorial, that she who shall not be named is good for the sport and I think that was proved Sunday. I’ve read that television ratings were up 30% from last year’s telecast. Stands looked pretty good too. She is good for the sport, she can drive a racecar, and she handles pressures very well. But I do not, and I think most of us do not, need to be reminded every 20 seconds that “she is in third”, “she is running in the top five”, “she can win this race” (comment from D.W. at least four times). I want you all to think of this. She who shall not be named finished 8th. Regan Smith was 7th, Michael McDowell was 9th and J.J. Yeley was 10th. I would bet that those three teams had less money, total, in all three cars than she who shall not be named had in hers. That’s my gripe. Those three got hardly any attention during the race or afterwards.
Now we move away from Daytona and hit the circuit. We shall see what transpires as the series moves along. I think that Brad Keselowski showed yesterday why he is the reigning champion and I would not be the least surprised to see him do it again this year. I’m sure D.W. has another opinion, but considering his constant state of swooning these days, I wouldn’t bank a lot on what he has to say. If you want to consider the overwhelming opinion of those who e-mailed, called me, and talked to me since Sunday, it may be a good idea for FOX to poll the audience to see how D.W. goes over. Between FOX and Sprint, they sure poll everything else.
I am looking forward to this season. I like the new cars and I like to think the performance of those cars on tracks other than Daytona International Parade Grounds and Talladega Super Parade Park is going to be worth watching. Oh, and as for “Racing Through History”, how many times this past week did you hear the word “historic” used in relation to the Daytona 500? That proves I’m on point!!!
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(Editor’s note: Tim Leeming is a member of the regular cast of the Tuesday evening racing show ” Racing Through History”, presented on Zeus Radio Network by RacersReunion®. Archives can be found by following the link. Live broadcasts can be heard from 7:00-9:00 PM every Tuesday. Please feel free to join us in the RacersReunion® Chat Room for the show.)