Friday, May 1, 2009

Backlash Against Plates Is Unrestricted

Carl Edwards is used to being in the air, doing a backflip after he wins. However, he's not usually in this position, as his Aflac Ford flips at Talladega on the final lap of Sunday's Aaron's 499, where Brad Keselowski (foreground) drives away for his first Sprint Cup Series win. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)

"We're going to race like that until we kill somebody. Then they will change it."

Those were the words of a visibly shaken Carl Edwards after Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, where he was involved in a last-lap crash that precluded him from winning the race. Edwards instead took out his frustration in a post-race interview, stating that restrictor plate racing has yet again put more than just the drivers in danger, with his car flipping into the safety fence at the Alabama track, injuring seven. "I'm not sure I could live with myself if I went into the grandstand," Edwards also said. Ryan Newman, who was also involved in the Edwards wreck, added that "Talladega stands for 'We're going to crash, but we just don't know when.'" Brad Keselowski won the race, picking up his first Sprint Cup Series win, but the story was driver safety, just like it was at another restrictor plate track on what can arguably be described as NASCAR's darkest day.

Eight years ago, Dale Earnhardt, who was one of the sport's two greatest drivers, was killed in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, and his death overshadowed all else at the track. In the wake of the Earnhardt tragedy, NASCAR mandated use of the HANS device that restrains the driver's head and neck while they are in the car, a move that should have been made before Earnhardt's tragic death.

One can be certain that when NASCAR returns to Daytona in July, safety will again dominate the headlines, and hopefully NASCAR will take a stand by restricting more than just the speeds on the cars in an action that will save many lives, starting with those of the drivers.

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