Wrecking or Racing, Safety at Super Speedway

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Carnage after rain fall at Daytona International Speedway in the second Daytona race.

Aasrith Veerapaneni, Staff Writer

 From Talladega to Daytona, Super Speedway racing has been an integral part of NASCAR since its inception in the 1960’s.  Yet today, safety concerns and rain plague fabled finishes and historic nights.

As we round closer to the last super speedway race, Talladega, on October 2, this year’s races have been rocky at best.  Headlined by a huge rain-caused wreck in the second Daytona race.  As the lead pack of cars went into the first corner, a surprise shower, not untypical for Florida summers, popped up.  Cars don’t take well to water, especially not when they are traveling at 200 miles per hour.  The 11 of Denny Hamlin, 99 of Danial Suarez, and 16 of Daniel Hemric hit the rain, all losing their cars.  They pile up into the turn, causing nearly all 20 lead lap cars to crash.  Out of the chaos emerged a single undamaged victor, the 3 car of Austin Dillion.  He would go on to win the race, but it brings up the question of safety in Nascar Super Speedways.

This is by no means a singular case.  Ryan Newman’s scary wreck from 2020 left him in critical condition for 48 hours.  We lost Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a race at Daytona back in 2001.  Drivers, crew chiefs, and fans all understand what Super-Speedway racing entails.  The length of the race tracks, with Talladega a 2.66 mile track and Daytona at around 2.5 miles, breed speed.  Progress has been made over the years, with safety measures such as the HANS (Hubbard’s Head and Neck Support) device and the inclusion of SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers.  This has, evidently worked, as drivers frequently walk away from scary wrecks, such as the last corner Team Penske wreck at the Daytona 500 in 2021.  

You also can’t deny the obvious spectacle that these races become.  First and second are rarely separated by a few feet at the start/finish line.  The Daytona 500 is a race that race fans across the globe know about, as well as being the kickoff race to the season.  The summer Daytona race also occurs at the end of the regular season, causing the stakes to be inflated.  The 2nd Talladega race is a 2nd round Playoff race, meaning it’s crucial for good runs to occur throughout the field.  It’s a race that almost guarantees a good finish, but is it enough to account for the clear safety concerns?  Or has NASCAR done enough to prevent serious injuries in race cars, and crashes are a product of racing?  It remains to be seen what will be done as we gain more experience with the Next Gen car, which was rolled out at the beginning of this season.