Click! Once again, NASCAR plays Russian roulette at a restrictor plate track, and no one dies. Like you, I suspect that in another day and time, we would all be writing memorials to Austin Dillon. He made it out alive, and so have the fans injured by the flying debris from Dillon’s car, as we witnessed another episode of carnage on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway. We are reminded that 43 cars bunched together at 200 mph is a high-risk proposition. Put those 43 cars nose-to-tail and put that checkered flag in the air, and its orchestrated chaos.
NASCAR drivers are understandably furious. While all the safety measures have done a great deal to reduce the risk, that risk of something catastrophic happening is still inordinately high. While Brian France talks of doing more, drivers such as Ryan Newman aren’t satisfied that the powers that be are really listening. There is one thing Newman and his cohorts can do to truly get NASCAR’s attention; the question is one of whether or not they have the stones to do it…..
Don’t race there. No drivers, no race. Oh sure, there’s drivers out there with more ambition than common sense; those who have a failed grasp of the big picture. With that being said, with ticket prices being what they are, what fan would be willing to watch second-rate racers tackle the 2.5 mile Superspeedway?
You know, something like this happened before. Older fans will remember when Big Bill France opened Talladega. A number of top drivers sat out, and Richard Brickhouse won the first Cup event there, and the drivers eventually caved. This is a different time.
Brian France is not his grandfather; this goes without saying. I highly doubt he has a handgun in his desk drawer, and even if he does, I suspect he has no inclination to use it. Today’s NASCAR drivers are in a completely different position financially than the drivers of yesterday. Remember those TV shows that showed us their palatial homes? Granted, not every driver is as well off as Jeff Gordon, but the series is far removed from the days of farmers and bootleggers making a little mad money to bankroll their expensive little hobby.
It’s the one thing that will usher in a serious discussion about taking real safety measures, and it sure seems like this is the only thing that will truly get the attention of the NASCAR brass. Yes- steps have been taken to make it safer, but let’s get real: you cannot jam that many 3,500 cars together at that rate of speed on a high-banked race track, and not expect that something won’t happen. Yes- there is inherent risk involved in auto racing; but come on, that risk is much greater at a restrictor plate race.
Some fans will retort that today’s NASCAR drivers are sissies and a divas, and they should just grow a pair and race. It’s easy to say when it’s not your life and livelihood on the line. Watch the response of the drivers to what happened in the wee hours of Monday morning; it was a very different reaction than your garden variety race collision.
Does this sound like a call to unionize? Perhaps. Yours truly has been a member of two unions, and neither were worth very much. Unions did, however, serve a valuable purpose to get employers to address safety concerns. For the drivers, now is the time for a push back. They’ve got more power than they realize, and it’s time to go “all in” to get NASCAR’s attention.