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Pocono’s backstretch should be fined for actions detrimental to the sport

By admin | August 1, 2010

By Richard Allen

Sunday’s television broadcast of the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 began well enough for the Pocono Raceway. ESPN highlighted a project the track has taken on to use solar power for the production of electricity to the speedway and even to the surrounding community. The video piece made the track truly look ahead of its time in the area of conservation.

However, it did not take long for the ugly side of Pocono to show itself. On lap 165 Jimmie Johnson gave Kurt Busch an aggressive shove in hopes of providing him a sort of bump draft. Instead, Busch’s car went sideways and triggered a horrifying crash. Not only did Busch go for a wild ride but Elliott Sadler was sent head-on into an archaic steel barrier backed up by an earthen embankment. The impact literally tore the engine from the #19 Ford and sent it careening back onto the racing surface.

The truly bad part about this is that Davey Allison once experienced and equally horrifying wreck in almost that same area of the Pocono backstretch…in 1992.

There is no excuse for a barrier that proved outdated almost twenty years ago to still be in place. And more, the area leading up to that part of the track has long stretches of grass in front of the barrier. The Pocono area is well known for its dampness which means that grass is almost certain to be wet and slick.

When Daytona and Talladega continued to have wild crashes in certain prone areas of those tracks the grassy areas were paved. When Jeff Gordon suffered a hard impact at Las Vegas, the SAFER Barrier was extended.

Pocono’s backstretch area came under fire just over a month ago when a late race crash very nearly sent Kasey Kahne’s car over the wall, which has no catch fence. That area remains unfenced.

Since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in 2001 at Daytona, both tracks and cars used in NASCAR have seen significant safety improvements. So, why has Pocono been allowed to go on with such a dangerous area of its track which has been causing issues for twenty years?

If NASCAR is to be in the business of doling out fines for actions detrimental to the sport, this could qualify as much as any words ever spoken or tweeted.

Thank goodness that the Car of Tomorrow, for all its faults, is as safe as it is. And, thank goodness for equipment such as the Hans Device so that the Elliott Sadler incident of Sunday did not have a terrible ending. However, Pocono’s backstretch cannot continue to rely on CoTs and Hans Devices to save drivers. The inner part of the backstretch needs to be paved and a more up to date wall needs to put in place before the next race there.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

15 Responses to “Pocono’s backstretch should be fined for actions detrimental to the sport”

  1. smith Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 4:58 am

    I agree totally. Absolutely no excuse for the condition of this track. Take away one of it’s dates and see if that gives them enough time to get issues taken care of. I’m sure there would be a few tracks willing to take the date……Kentucky for one.

  2. zhills fan Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I totally agree with you. I actually like Pocono as far as racing goes, it takes a good setup and good driver to run well here. It won’t have the drop off as far as spectators are concerned because of it’s location being so close to a highly populated area. While i’m thinking about it, wish you would run an article (if you agree with me) about the networks not giving equal time to the lower tier teams and especially their sponsors. Afterall if it wasn’t for the teams sponsors their wouldn’t be any NASCAR. Thanks!

  3. Charles Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 6:24 am

    What was disapointing to me was that ESPN could not provide a shot of Sadlers wreck!

    With all the camera angles they use to show something unimportant and could not provide a complete angle of the wreck shows they have work to do!

    As far as paving the barrier at Pocono that might help as far as safety concern, but is Daytona or Talledaga, Charlotte going to pave the area at the frontstretch. I mean the same logic applys? And going to road courses without barriers in certain areas?

    I am for all the safety improvements but Ponoco in most races has fewer wrecks than most tracks, but when they have one they are usually bad!

  4. JerseyGirl Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Absolutely, Rich. Pocono decided to go “green” with their solar far to the tune of $15.5 million dollars. They should have invested that in the needed safety improvements FIRST. I’m glad that Sadler and Busch weren’t badly injured. Obviously the cars are safer than they were, but unless tracks are willing to upgrade THEIR safety equipment, they shouldn’t be sanctioned to have a race at their facility, let alone two.

  5. midasmicah Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 10:17 am

    This is not the first bad crash really bad crash at Pocono and until some changes are made, it certainly will not be the last. After viewing replays of Sadler hitting the wall head on, I could not believe he wasn’t seriously injured or worse. Pocono needs to make major changes.

  6. Ritchie Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Looked almost as bad as Davies crash there. Davie Allisons car was pealed like a tatter.
    Was so happy to see Sadler drop the window net.

  7. 2010C6R Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Someone’s bias is showing! “. . . it did not take long for the ugly side of Pocono to show itself. On lap 165. . .” One Hundred and Sixty-five laps, 82.5% of a rain delayed race completed and you think its appropriate to use the phrase “it did not take long?” I was there and it was a long time! I think more appropriate and more accurate line might have been, “With less than 35 laps to go, we almost escaped the big one!”

    As for hitting the inside wall, I will agree that there have been some serious issues there. I was there in 1992 when Darrell Waltrip “drove through” Davey Allison and also in 2002 when Jr. and Steve Park collected one another through the grass and the barrier. And it is true that corrective measures have been taken to reduce the risk. Correct me if I’m wrong but this epidemic of hard hits on the Tunnel turn outside wall with the cars seeming to lift up at the edge seems to have started and continues with the COT. Maybe the dynamics of a very rigid structure coupled with a very unforgiving suspension might be the real cause of these impromptu airborne flights?

    Perhaps it is a two-edged sword? The car that can and does protect its drivers from serious injury might also be an underlying cause of some of the accidents?

  8. Richard in N.C. Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Pardon me if I have a very hard time taking you media folk seriously. Except for Monte Dutton, virtually all you media folk thought bashing Tom Logano was more important than anything about safety at Pocono after the 1st race.

  9. Richard Allen Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Richard in NC,

    since you grouped all media into one pile I went back and checked. I never mentioned Tom Logano by name after the first Pocono race. I did mention that Logano’s father made an aggravated gesture, which he did, but if it is bashing to point out the truth then guilty as charged.

    Of course, I had to make reference to the firesuit comment but who could resist that?

    But since you brought it up you help me to make a point I have stressed many times. Things like double-file restarts and multiple g/w/c(which I like) are tools NASCAR so often uses to steer everyone away from real issues. At Pocono in June, as I said in one piece I wrote, it worked to perfection. The late race calamity made most everyone forget that the first 160 laps of the race were boring and that there were still unaddressed safety issues at the track.

    BTW, I also found a piece I wrote all the way back in 2008 addressing the very same issues at Pocono that showed up yesterday.

    Also, I agree that Monte Dutton is a top notch writer and he is a great guy to be around as well.

  10. Marybeth Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    According to the pre-race show yesterday, Pocono just spent $16 million to install new solar panels. Seems to me that that money could have been better spent on safety features. Pocono’s priorities are wrong and to send a message to other tracks, Pocono loses their races. Fixing where Elliott hit someone said is a 2 day job with a bulldozer.

  11. Richard in N.C. Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I have gone back and don’t find where you bashed Logano’s father, but I’m still looking for the reference to unaddressed safety issues. In any event, after the 1st Pocono race far more was written bashing Tom Logano than was written about safety matters at Pocono, especially by those who watched the race on TV rather than being at the track to get complete, first-hand facts.

  12. Richard Allen Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 8:38 pm

  13. mkrcr Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    A few things I believe to be true.
    Pocono will not do anything until the are forced to. They have known of these issues for years. NA$CAR still doesn’t push them into compliance. This track is owned by doctors? WTF, shouldn’t they be the most concerned. Or are they just PHD’s?
    NA$CAR is probably most relieved that Sadler can’t say what’s really on his mind. But maybe it’d be worth the fine.
    #3 Charlie-”I am for all the safety improvements but Ponoco in most races has fewer wrecks than most tracks, but when they have one they are usually bad!” Aren’t those the ones that need to be prevented, regardless of the frequency?

  14. Richard Allen Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Joe Mattioli is a dentist and Rose is a podiatrist.

  15. Gene Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Watkins Glen’s use of metal guard railings and tire barriers for crash contaiment is almost as bad as Pocono’c backstretch. Both should be forced to have major upgrades if they want to remain on the NASCAR schedule.

    The open wheel modifieds have raced at Pocono in the not too distant past. What if one of those had hit where E Sad did?