Safety has become a paramount concern for NASCAR over the last two decades and while the sport has made good decisions in the past, that’s not always the case. Unfortunately for Cup Series drivers, this Sunday’s race at Dover seems like one of those times.
Speeds around the one mile speedway have already reached over 168 miles in the first practice, which is about four miles faster then what drivers usually run at the track .It is believed the uptick in speed is due in part to more down force, less time on the throttle and the NASCAR’s new rules package.
According to Autoweek.com,” With a horsepower target of 750 at the Monster Mile, combined with the high drag and high downforce competition package, drivers are barely lifting in the corners and producing record speeds in practice. Kurt Busch paced the first session on Friday with a best speed of 168.445 mph, best amongst 23 drivers who surpassed the track record of 164.444 mph set by Brad Keselowski in 2014. “
Driver reactions to the speed uptick have been mixed and really depends on who you talk to. For example, Kyle Busch was adamant during an interview that someone was going to get hurt this way, while last week’s Talladega winner had other thoughts on the higher speeds.
“You’re paid to go fast so let’s go fast,” he said. “It’s not fun hitting something real hard anytime you do and certainly isn’t going to feel good when you do it at these speeds. Definitely, it’s physical for sure and I think this is going to be a very physical race on Sunday, especially if the sun comes out and it’s hot. It’s fast.Is it too fast? Like I said, this is our job, what we sign up for and I think it is what it is.”
While Elliott’s comments seem innocent enough, especially since drivers know the danger that they are getting into when competing in a sport like this, it still feels like he isn’t taking driver safety into consideration. In fact, it seems to be the farthest thing from his mind.
The problem with thinking like this is that accidents do and have happened in NASCAR over even the last decade and have seriously altered careers as well. One example of this was Kyle Busch, who broke both his feel during a Xfinity Series race at Daytona and had to sit out several races.
Of course, Busch would ultimately return and go on to win a championship, but the injury still did irreparable damage to his career and his future quality of life. Another example is Aric Almirola, who suffered a horrendous crash at Kansas Motor Speedway and hurt his back in the process.
If nothing else, this is a very dangerous sport and drivers should be much more aware of that then they are. They also shouldn’t be so quick to disregard the safety aspect of things, which is pretty much what Chase Elliott did here.
In the end, maybe it’s just his youthfulness and love for the sport that makes safety not a big concern for him, but it should be. Furthermore, NASCAR should do everything they can to lower speeds at The Monster Mile for Sunday’s race or risk someone getting hurt.