It’s taken me a week to post about the Nationwide race last weekend. Let me preface this by making it perfectly clear- I actually did not watch the race live. I had been following it along via twitter until I found out that there was a pretty signifigant last lap crash and that there was an engine in the stands! I immediately stopped what I was doing and got to the nearest television to turn on the race. The first thing I saw was the engine sitting on the wrong side of the safer barrier and all I could thing was CRAP THAT IS NOT GOOD. I saw replays of the crash and was amazed that the drivers walked away- and hoped and prayed that none of the fans were killed. It didn’t even really register to me that Tony Stewart won the race- until they finally showed his “subdued victory lane interview.” You could tell that Tony didn’t care about winning- he was worried about what happened to the fans.
After his victory lane- Tony went to talk to the NATIONWIDE director Joe Balash. I found some pictures of Tony and Joe Balash- and it was these pictures that really made me want to actually do this post. You can tell Tony is concerned by the whole accident by the look on his face in this picture:
Tony’s face says it all- he is shocked and concerned. I think I see a little disbelief there too. What is he looking at? Here is a picture where you can see the recovered wreckage they are looking at:
To me- just seeing these two photos is very sobering- yet also reassuring. Why is it reassuring? Because you know that they are going to work their hardest to figure out a way to make sure that something like this will not happen again. It sounds like they are pretty certain Kyle Larson’s car hit a crossover gate (used when cars are not on track to pass from the infield to the outfield). I think that there will probably far fewer crossover gates and instead those wishing to cross from inside the track to outside will have to use pedestrian tunnels.
As horrific as this accident was though I am going to say this- the fence actually did it’s job. If it hadn’t done it’s job- there would have been a full on stock car in the stands. That engine? Would have made it all the way into the stands and not where it came to rest next to the safer barrier. What injured a majority fans was not stuff coming through the fence- but stuff that made it OVER the fence.
Tony mentioned in his victory lane interview that the drivers know that the sport they love is dangerous and they ultimate come to accept that danger or they wouldn’t take part in it- but that the fans do not understand that danger. I don’t necessarily know that is true though- the fans SHOULD know that those are heavy cars going outrageously fast inches from each other. Things happen. Do baseball fans go to games not thinking they will get hit in the head with a foul ball? I don’t think so. I have sat in the stands at many many races. I have sat everywhere from the first row (at Phoenix) to way up in the Terraces at Las Vegas. As a fan I know that there is a chance- albeit fairly small that something could happen and I could get hit be debris. My VERY FIRST race- I was sitting in turn four at Vegas the year that Jeff Gordon hit the inside retaining wall- remember that race- it tore his car into huge pieces? I remember it well because before Jeff Gordon hit the inside retaining wall on the backstretch- Tony Stewart hit the wall RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. It was loud. I could FEEL the impact as much as I could hear it and it scared the crap out of me. Luckily he was okay and the car stayed down on the track. But it could have gotten into the fence. There is talk that NASCAR is consulting fencing experts to improve their fence technology. That is because they are always working to improve when they say a problem. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.
Unfortunately- a driver was hurt during the very same race- but not during the same wreck that hurt fans. Michael Annett suffered a dislocated sternum approximately 30 laps before the last lap melee Who knew you could dislocate that? Not me. As someone who dislocated a knee- just the thought of a dislocated sternum makes me nauseated. He recently had surgery and is expected to be out of the car for approximately 2 months recuperating. I wish him a speedy recovery.
It sounds like most of the fans are out of the hospital- and now a week later only a couple remain recovering from their injuries.
One of these fans is looking for the fans who were sitting by him- fans he credits for saving his life. He wants to thank the fans that helped him personally and would like your help in finding them! Check out this article if you are these fans- or know these fans. I wish him well in his effort to find the fans that saved him. I also hope that everyone is home and healed soon.
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