August 01, 2010
At first, it looked like Kurt Busch's wild ride would be the worst crash of the day at Pocono, but then — so almost out of nowhere that ESPN barely caught it on camera — Elliott Sadler went and upstaged him.
Man, that just hurts watching it. Thankfully, Sadler was OK and just had the wind knocked out of him. Extra credit goes to the HANS Device and the CoT. Just look at where the left-front wheel ended up!
For the second straight race, Pocono's safety was tested along the Long Pond straightaway. After Kasey Kahne almost went flying out of the track in the June race, clipping the bushes outside the track in the process, many called for the installment of a catchfence in the area. (And oddly enough, the common denominator in both incidents is Kahne and Sadler's RPM teammate AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger got into the back of Kahne in June, and was the one that clipped Sadler on Sunday.)
Pennsylvania 500 winner Greg Biffle was one of those most critical of the track, saying "they're going to kill somebody there" in a drivers' roundtable discussion in Sports Illustrated, and pointing to the Steve Park and Dale Earnhardt Jr. crash on the infield of the Long Pond straightaway in 2002. (Side note: How creepy are Benny Parsons' comments?)
Heck, that may be the same Armco crash barrier that Park and Earnhardt Jr. crashed into eight years ago. Pocono, like all tracks in NASCAR, has installed the SAFER barrier on the walls on the outside of the turns. The barriers on the infield look like they haven't been improved in years. Sadler not only hit a solid-steel barrier, but he hit squarely in what looked to be close to a 90-degree angle. Walls on the inside of racetracks shouldn't have angles like that.
And a SAFER barrier certainly wouldn't have sheared the engine and front bumper from Sadler's car. Remember Michael McDowell's car after he flipped during qualifying at Texas? His car looked like Sadler's did, and he barrel rolled about a dozen times.
Yes, we wrote Friday about the solar energy grid that Pocono is building, and while that's a great innovation, for the safety of drivers in all levels — I shudder to think what could happen in an ARCA race at Pocono — the track's attention needs to be devoted to improved driver safety before June 2011 rolls around.
If Pocono somehow resists, NASCAR needs to draw a line and demand that improvements are made, otherwise the Truck and Cup Series won't be returning. While that may sound drastic, Biffle almost looked like a soothsayer Sunday, and there should be no reason that his statement would ever be validated.
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