NASCAR drivers dismayed, dumbfounded by Talladega crashfest – USA TODAY
TALLADEGA, Ala. âÂ Trevor Bayne, drenched in sweat with beads of perspiration clinging to his forehead, wandered off pit road after Sunday’s Talladega Superspeedway race and smiled.
His No. 6 car was untouched, but it was one of only a handful that survived a demolition derby of a raceÂ that saw 35 of the 40 cars leave with at least some damage.
âItâs very insane,â Bayne said of Talladega racing. âYou get butterflies in your stomach even thinking about coming here because you donât know whatâs going to happen. Even (the last restart) weâre sitting third and Iâm like, âWell, we could win or we could end up on a wrecker with the roof torn off.ââ
If itâs possible, TalladegaÂ was even crazier than usual. And thatâs saying a lot for a place race winner Brad Keselowski called a âdaredevil track.â
Matt Kenseth got airborne and looked for a moment as if heâd sail into the infield. Chris Buescher flipped and barrel-rolled down the backstretch. And Kevin Harvick finished 15th despite spending the end of the race riding the top of the SAFER barrier, roof-first,Â right in front of where many fans were craning their necks in the stands and trying to see the finish.
There were several other incredibly hard hits as well, and NASCAR was fortunate everyone walked away. But drivers know it might not always end up that way.
âYou canât (have cars go airborne) but so many times before we need to realize something (needs to change),â Austin Dillon said. âWe need to jump on this and try to get it before the next couple speedways in order to keep them on the ground.â
Dillon suggested slowing the cars down would be the best solution, but most drivers who said flying cars were a problem didn’t know how to fix it.
“I don’t know if really anyone in our sport knows the answer,” Keselowski said.
So will anything really change in the next two months? That’s the time remaining beforeÂ NASCAR makes a return to the scene of Dillonâs vicious crash into the fenceÂ last year at Daytona International Speedway, which left five fans with minor injuries.
NASCAR has been pack-racing at Talladega and Daytona for decades now and crash-filledÂ races like Sunday’s still happen.
âWhat are you going to do?â Kyle Busch said. âKeep going. Thatâs it. Itâs been that way for 30 years.â
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Drivers realize thereâs a difficult balance between entertainment and safety. At Talladega, though, the seesaw between the two can be dramatic.
One moment, the drivers are racing in a thrilling,Â four-wide pack; the next, they might be careening toward a collision with the fence that could mean serious injury or worse. And it’s not just drivers who are at risk, but fans.
NASCAR did not have anyone available to comment on Sundayâs race, but Talladega will once againÂ generate much discussion over the next week.
âIt’s just hold it wide open before you crash,â Danica Patrick said after a fierce crash. âEven if think youâre going to wreck, you hold it wide open. Itâs just dangerous, but itâs exciting. I understand that. I enjoy watching it, too.â
But given the chaosÂ is more likely to take place at Talladega and Daytona than a normal track, is it still even worth racing at these risk-filled venues?
Keselowski paused for a moment, then chuckled.
âHey, Iâm a capitalist,â he said. âThere are people still paying to sit in the stands and there are sponsors still on the cars. There are drivers still willing to get in them.
âIt sounds like itâs self-policing and thereâs enough interest to keep going. So weâll keep going.â
Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck
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