Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Hamlin suffered a collapsed vertebra in this crash at Fontana in March.
Safety was once again a major issue this season, as it is every season. However, several incidents this season raised questions regarding to driver safety and spurned officials into action for safety at the race track.
In February, Kyle Larson's spectacular crash at Daytona made national headlines as fragments from his disintegrated Chevy rained onto the spectators after his car was sent sailing into the catch fence on the last lap. Several fans were injured in the accident, prompting officials to reinforce the catch fence protecting the fans and moving the steel crossover gate further away from the fans.
The next month, Denny Hamlin suffered a massive L1 compression fracture when he crashed at Fontana on the last lap, hitting a portion of the retaining wall that was unprotected by a SAFER barrier. In October, the Auto Club Speedway completed installation of a 1,000-foot SAFER barrier in the very location that Hamlin hit the wall.
In May, 10 fans were injured when a nylon rope from an overhead camera snapped and fell into the crowd. None of the injuries were life-threatening, and the rope also damaged several cars, including the Toyota of then-race leader Kyle Busch, who later blew an engine. NASCAR would go on and ban use of the camera at future events.
In August, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart was forced to sit out the rest of the season after breaking his leg in a Sprint Car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The No. 14 Stewart-Haas machine underwent several substitute drivers before ending the season with Mark Martin. Stewart is eyeing a 2014 return.
With the exception of Stewart's accident, as such accidents are to happen in racing, the proper approaches have been made to ensure similar incidents won't happen again. In 2014, we will see where else the safety argument takes us, and let's hope that 2014 is a safe year.