As NASCAR Safety Initiatives Are Tested
By Kent Whitaker:
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series left Kansas with two major story lines. First, Martin Truex Jr. finally beat the track that has teased him so many times. Second, the safety initiatives that NASCAR has mandated over the year’s work!
The Go Bowling 400 started off in the hands of Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Blaney captured the pole for the Saturday night race and was a major player throughout the race where he eventually came in second. But the night would belong to Truex as he dominated much of the race leading 104 of the 267 laps.
It was the restart with less than 20 laps to go where he took the lead for the final time of the night. A few short cautions later Truex crossed the finish line ahead of Brad Keselowski by a full second.
The win is the second of the season for Truex and his first at Kansas Speedway – a track where he has not had the best luck. In 2016 and 2017 the driver had his eyes set on victory lane before bad luck took over. Truex was seemingly driving away for the checkered flag when a loose bolt shredded a tire.
During another Cup race, a misjudged pit stop for gas only should have, in retrospect, included fresh tires as well. He could not hold off cars with fresh tires. In 2012, he almost won both Kansas races of the season before eventually coming in second.
“It’s been a long time coming at this racetrack for sure,” Truex said. “The heartbreaks we’ve been through, I’m definitely proud tonight to cross that checkered flag first. … As a racer, you don’t forget the ones that got away.”
A Fire Filled Crash
The race was red flagged due to a fire filled crash which resulted in driver Aric Almirola having to be extracted from his wrecked race car. He was soon loaded onto a medical helicopter and flown to a local hospital.
The crash started as one between Danica Patrick and Joey Logano. The No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford driven by Logano suffered a parts failure which pulled his car violently into Patrick’s No. 10 Wonder Woman / One Cure Ford.
The cars trailed fire as they crashed into the outside wall. Moments later Almirola crashed into Logano and Patrick. Both Logano and Patrick could exit their cars and visited the infield care center. Almirola remained in his until he was extracted. The driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports suffered a compression fracture in his back. No timeline has been announced for his return.
The wreck saw two drivers walk away and one suffering injuries. The fact that NASCAR has mandated so many safety features into the cars over the years has proven to be a correct path! Following the death of Dale Earnhardt Senior at Daytona the sanctioning body has put an emphasis on safety including the HANS device, improved driver compartments, safer barriers and more.
“It’s a dangerous sport,” said Brad Keselowski following the Go Bowling 400 while speaking about the wreck. “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 wreck that removed Kyle Busch from the sport for several months led to NASCAR improving foot and leg protection. Dale Earnhardt Jr, and his 2016 shortened season due to his concussion injuries helped NASCAR rewrite their head/brain injury protocol.
Safety is always a concern in the sport of racing. It’s a battle that NASCAR sees as an ongoing one. NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller, said Almirola’s wrecked car would be studied so that they can learn what improvements could be made.
“It’s currently at the (NASCAR) R&D Center, and our safety experts will – look for anything that might give us clues or some indication of exactly what the challenge was there with Aric and his back,” Miller stated during the interview. “I’m certain they’ll interview him and ask him about all the particulars of how tight his belts were and all the rest of that.”
“When we have these situations or even situations where someone doesn’t get hurt, we really like to investigate as best as possible into the accident and see how we can get better,” Miller said.
Kansas by the Numbers
Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Rest of the Top-Ten: Keselowski, Harvick, Blaney, Busch, Larson, Suarez, McMurray, Bowyer, Bayne.
Cautions: 15 cautions for 61 yellow flag laps.
Red Flag: 1 for approximately 30 minutes.
Lead Changes: 21 lead changes among 9 drivers
Average speed of the race: 117.640 mph.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kent Whitaker, often called ‘the Deck Chef,’ is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on The Deck Chef .”