Sadler’s Crash Exposes Pocono’s Safety Issues

(photo courtesy Getty Images)

The fallout from the crashes of Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler have the NASCAR world abuzz.  The lack of safety enforcement standards from NASCAR were abundantly and glaring clear Sunday.  Those two crashes put the spotlight very brightly on the Pocono Raceway.  If you add Sunday’s issues to what was discussed after June’s Pocono race, when Kasey Kahne nearly sailed over the back straight away retaining wall, then there are many safety issues that need tending to at Pocono.  The Mattioli family, the owners of the Pocono Raceway, came up with a plan to upgrade and address most of those concerns after the June race.  Unfortunately, those upgrades could not take place until after the race on Sunday was completed.

In part, some of the safety issues are the lack of a catchfence on the Long Pond straight between turns 1 and 2.  A lack of the SAFER barriers on the inside retaining walls.  Removing the old steel guard rails on the inside retaining wall and replacing them with the more advanced retaining walls additionally equipped with the SAFER barriers.  Replacing the grass on the inside of the turns and straights with Sydney artificial grass, which allow cars a better chance to either regain control, or allow the cars to try to scrub off speed and slow significantly before impacting the retaining walls.  Additionally remove the berms and replace the inside retaining walls with newer and more appropriate materials.

This facility needs to eliminate the grass on the inside of the race track and add more pavement there.  It serves no constructive purpose!  The grass actually adds problems to an already out of control race car.  When the race car’s tires, racing slicks, come in contact with grass, wet or dry, it is like driving on ice.  There is a complete lack of friction between tires and grass, therefore, adding one more component to the recovery process, a lack of sufficient slowing  and a total lack of directional control of the race car.  Once the car is on the grass, the driver is now just along for the ride to the inevitable and impending crash site!

The Long Pond straight away, located between turns 1 and 2, has only a nicely manicured row of tress above the retaining wall.  Those trees could become a deadly problem for the drivers.  The trees should be removed or significantly trimmed to allow a proper catchfence to be installed along the retaining wall.  That would keep an airborne race car contained in the racing facility, additionally, that would prevent the branches from causing harm or death to the drivers.

Lastly, there needs to be a greater use of the SAFER barriers in more areas around the race track.  Pocono has its work cut out in order to be brought up to the required safety standards that NASCAR has set for itself!

In light of the decade of “increased safety” in both the cars and the upgrade of the racing facilities, how could NASCAR allow Pocono to slip through the cracks?  Sadler’s crash Sunday highlighted most all of the areas of concern that were sighted after the June race.

It is WOMR’s opinion that NASCAR has not uniformly enforced the safety standards that were put into place after the death of Dale Earnhardt,Sr. in 2001.  Now is the time and Pocono is the place for rigid enforcement!

What is your view?


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