The absolute reality facing NASCAR track owners when it comes to their walls is simple.
If a driver gets seriously injured by hitting anything that isn’t covered by a SAFER barrier or some other form of protective, energy-absorbing barrier, the race track will be pilloried in the court of public opinion.
It may cost a lot of money to make all of the improvements that could be necessary at some tracks, but as long as people have the money to spend on things like the Neon Garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway nobody’s going to be buying the poverty excuse.
When the steel-and-foam energy-reducing barriers first became required, all tracks had to install them in their turns. All of the outside and inside walls need to be covered, though, and tracks that still have openings like the one Jeff Gordon’s car hit at Vegas on Sunday had better get those re-engineered the right way.
One day someone will to be injured in a crash despite the fact he’s driving in a much safer car than he would have been in 10 years ago and racing on a track with more safety protection than there has ever been.
That’ll be bad enough. But if someone gets hurt hitting a concrete wall that’s a vestige of the way things used to be, it’ll be far worse for the sport and the track as well as for that driver.
You reckon all those fans from the Southeast who feel NASCAR has taken too many races from their region will fill up the grandstands this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway?
I am going to say no.
The track has some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, but the fans just don’t come. That’s not all NASCAR’s fault or the track’s fault. The fans have to share some of the blame, too.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage’s “offer” to open his track up for an added Sprint Cup test was summarily rejected by NASCAR, but his idea of letting teams come on Thursday (or even Wednesday) for some extra practice before racing there isn’t all bad.
Teams tested the new race car at Atlanta last fall and at Las Vegas and California in January. Texas will be the first intermediate track where most teams have nothing to go on when they roll off the truck.
A little extra track time, if for no other reason than insurance against bad weather, couldn’t hurt.
Can you imagine how completely different the reaction would have been Saturday at Las Vegas if Kyle Busch had done exactly what Mark Martin did in the final laps leading to his victory in the Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide Series race?