25 cars entered the race yet only 13 cars finished. Sounds more to me like Tina Turner’s introduction to the Thunderdome than the way a NASCAR race should have completed. Sure we all watch and wait for the wrecks, especially the “Big Ones” but if eliminating the 2 car draft means putting more drivers lives on the lines by increasing the number of high impact crashes on the track I for one, as a fan, am not signing up for that. When a single crash removed 6 cars from the field it is considered an acceptable loss when there are 43 cars on the track. Factor in that out of a 25 car field half of the field almost was taken out in these wrecks in only 75 laps vs. the 200 laps we will see in the 500 and the additional laps turned during the Duel races and there is a potential for a whole lot of damage, and a whole lot of injuries.
NASCAR has worked tirelessly since the end of the 2011 season attempting to listen to the fans and make a return to the pack racing we’ve all grown to love over the years. When the Budweiser Shootout started it looked just like what the fans were screaming for, the pack was back. But as the race progresses and the race turned into a high speed crash-up derby I started to feel more concern for the drivers than excitement for watching the first race of the season.
They have some time to see if a solution can be found before the running of the Gatorade Duels later this week, but I have heard no rumors of changes to be made. If the Daytona 500 turns into a wreckfest like the Shootout did then the words of Richard Childress after the shootout will be more than just prophesy. Childress was heard saying “If things continue like this it’s going to cost a whole lot of teams a whole lot of money.” With sponsorship dollars being so hard to come by it will fall on the team owners to replace equipment that gets destroyed in these big wrecks. For smaller teams it could be disastrous to be replacing 2 cars every “Plate Race” weekend.
What can NASCAR do to make it safer? I honestly have no suggestions being a fan and not an engineer. But they do have a ton of intelligent people working behind the scenes making NASCAR a safer sport and I am sure that something can be done. 2 car tandem racing was safer than what we all witnessed in the Shootout and the loss of even one life will be too much in the wake of what has happened in the racing world in general over the past year.
Personally I saw the Shootout as more of a wake up call that more needs to be done, than seeing a return to the old ways with a mixture of the new styles. The cars moved around like they did in the pack racing of old, but it seemed as if any little thing, a bad bump on the track, a bad bump from another car, an itchy nose somewhere in the field, and there was a wreck about to happen. I was on edge throughout the entire race and it had nothing to do with who was in the lead, but everything to do with who was sideways on the track and who they were about to take out with them.
I am hoping that someone in the high up world of NASCAR that someone is having the same feeling as I have. I can only hope that they will once again listen to the fans and make it safer for the guys we cheer for week in and week out so that we can continue to cheer for them for years to come.