Is Talledega Safe? -- by Sandy Christiansen 
Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 10:37 PM
Posted by Administrator
What was it about this 2.66 mile racetrack that resulted in a near catastrophe this past Sunday? SAFER barriers, roof flaps and restrictor plates were supposed to eliminate the bedlam of years past but Talladega still remains one step away from disaster in the minds of many. Will the answer lie in what’s done after someone gets killed or is there another way to avoid the inevitable before it’s too late?

In 1987, Bobby Allison earned a few frequent flyer miles when he went airborne and slammed into the fence not far from where Edwards did, which led to restrictor plates being mandated for Talladega and Daytona that same year. It brought the speeds down but in recent years the cars have been inching up toward 200 mph and beyond once again. In 1994, roof flaps came into reality to prevent further excursions into the upper atmosphere and in 2002, Talladega went through an extreme makeover when SAFER barriers were added to decrease the effects of wall impacts. That sounds great but there’s one wild card left in the deck and that’s the drivers themselves.

Like all living things on this planet, race drivers find a way around obstacles that are put in their way and the ones at NASCAR are more adept than most. We’re not talking about breaking the rules here; we’re talking about maximizing what you already have at your disposal. It became apparent in restrictor plate races that your ability to move toward the front of the parade required a “buddy” and a whole lot of bump drafting. Find one and you are good for an additional 5-7 mph. This tactic works fine as long as nobody makes a mistake. Get out of shape and you’ll send a sizeable number of your peers to the garage for the remainder of the day.

Cutting too fine of a line, late in the race can make you either a hero or the master of disaster and NASCAR had left it up to the drivers to establish an unwritten rule as to what was acceptable when one chose to engage in the art of bump drafting. It seems at this point that over-aggressiveness and risk-taking tends to override reason to the extent that the intervention of a higher power is needed to avert something no one would ever want to see.
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