It’ safer, but it’s still dan­ger­ous

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GE­ORGE DIAZ

NASCAR races can be de­ceiv­ing as driv­ers oc­ca­sion­ally go bump in the night while chas­ing speed.

Cars get de­stroyed. Rac­ers walk away un­scathed. All is good. Un­til it’s not.

NASCAR will be one man down this sea­son. Aric Almirola is on the mend af­ter suf­fer­ing a com­pres­sion frac­ture of his T5 ver­te­bra dur­ing a multi-car pileup at Kansas Speed­way on Satur­day.

Almirola “is mo­bile and will fol­lowup with his doc­tors in Char­lotte” af­ter his re­lease from a Kansas City hospi­tal. He is back at his home in Mooresville, N.C., and will be out at least six weeks.

“Well, I mean, it’s a dan­ger­ous sport,” Brad Ke­selowski told re­porters af­ter the race. “Al­ways has been; al­ways will be. Some­times we for­get that and maybe take for granted that you see real hard hits and peo­ple walk away, and then you see one where some­one doesn’t, and it puts things back into per­spec­tive just how dan­ger­ous it can be.”

The sport is not nearly as dan­ger­ous as it was in Fe­bru­ary 2001 when Dale Earn­hardt died on the last lap of the Day­tona 500 af­ter hit­ting the out­side wall on Turn 4. Earn­hardt, 49, suf­fered a se­vere frac­ture to the base of his skull, caus­ing bruis­ing and bleed­ing in the soft tis­sue in his brain.

And it’s not nearly as dan­ger­ous as it was in May 2000 when Adam Petty, 19, died from a trau­matic brain in­jury af­ter an ac­ci­dent dur­ing a prac­tice lap at the New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way.

NASCAR of­fi­cials got up to speed on in­creas­ing safety stan­dards, mak­ing head-re­straint de­vices manda­tory and putting up SAFER bar­ri­ers at tracks to help soften wall im­pacts.

All these in­no­va­tions have lulled us into a sense of se­cu­rity. Cars rou­tinely flip in the air at Tal­ladega, ev­ery­body cheers, and driv­ers walk away un­hurt.

No one has died in any of NASCAR’s three high­est lev­els of rac­ing — Mon­ster En­ergy Cup Se­ries, Xfin­ity Se­ries and Camp­ing World Truck Se­ries — since Earn­hardt’s ac­ci­dent.

“NASCAR has made re­ally good safety im­prove­ments over the past 10, 15 years,” Kansas pole-sit­ter Ryan Blaney said, “and they’re al­ways im­prov­ing, so they’ll look at that in­ci­dent and see what they can do bet­ter to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing ever again.”

Ac­ci­dents like the one in Kansas ob­vi­ously give ev­ery­one pause. Almirola’s No. 43 Ford was in­volved in a fiery multi-car ac­ci­dent on Lap 200 dur­ing Satur­day night’s race af­ter Joey Logano lost con­trol.

Almirola’s win­dow net was low­ered as safety work­ers cut the roof and roll cage off Almirola’s car to re­move him. He was then pulled from the car, placed on a board and air­lifted to the hospi­tal.

“I’m just say­ing a lot of pray­ers for Aric right now,” Logano said Satur­day night. “That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for any­one.”

Pray­ers in­deed. It stinks that Almirola suf­fered a frac­tured ver­te­bra. But ev­ery­one was spared a much big­ger tragedy: At least the NASCAR Na­tion did not have to bury an­other fallen driver.

SEAN GARD­NER, GETTY IM­AGES

The fiery crash of Aric Almirola Sun­day has re­minded ev­ery­one that while NASCAR rac­ing is much safer than ever be­fore, it is in­her­ently dan­ger­ous.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.