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There is no excuse for a barrier that proved outdated almost twenty years ago to still be in place.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.
Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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