Shortly before his passing at the age of 50, David Poole shared his feelings about the April race at Talladega Superspeedway in his Life in the Turn Lane column for the Charlotte Observer.
"The problem is and always has been this race track," said Poole.
After watching the Amp Energy 500 at the Superspeedway, many would agree that Poole's words again rang true this weekend at the fall Talladega race.
In his April 26, 2009 column, Poole shared his concerns about the track, especially in light of the terrible crash involving Carl Edwards. Brad Keselowski and Edwards were racing for the win when they wrecked. The wreck sent Edwards airborne and he crashed into the catch fence.
Although Edwards was able to get out of the car and run across the finish line a la Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights , several fans were hurt from debris that came through the catch fence.
Poole railed against NASCAR for allowing this kind of racing to occur. He hearkened back to the 40-year history of problems at Talladega, from the tire issues in the inaugural race that caused the drivers to boycott the competition, to Bobby Allison's terrible crash that sent him flying into the catch fence.
"The real problem is the same as it has been for the 40 years this track has existed," Poole said. "From the very first weekend of racing held there, when speeds were too fast for tires to withstand and anybody with any regard for what's really safe would have called off the race, the problem is and always has been this race track."
Poole continued, "It was crazy—and I mean that word literally—to ever let things get to a point where Bill Elliott could run 215 mph here. It was crazy to react to Bobby Allison's wreck into the fence, one that looked entirely too much like the wreck Carl Edwards had here Sunday for the comfort of anybody with good sense, by trying to write rules and change the cars to make this place safe."
But NASCAR seemed to do just that, trying to make the racing safer at Talladega. From the practice session, where the sanctioning body black flagged Michael Waltrip for aggressive driving, to the drivers' meeting where they warned drivers that they would be penalized for bump drafting in the turns, NASCAR appeared to be warning the drivers that hard racing that might cause "the big one" would not be tolerated this time around.
The drivers seemed to heed NASCAR's warnings at the beginning and through the mid-point of the fall race at Talladega. The field went single file around the track, logging laps and causing several of the drivers like Tony Stewart to beg his pit crew to either tell him stories or find him some "No Doze" to keep him awake.
But as the laps turned and patience wore thin for many of the drivers, it was just a matter of time before someone got racy and the wreck was on. The first major accident of the day was not the "big one" per se, but was a terrible crash nonetheless.
The wreck involved a number of cars, including Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose. Ryan Newman, however, bore the brunt of the crash, pirouetting wildly, flipping and flying through the air, and sliding all over the track and the infield on his roof.
With the top of his car pancaked in, Newman came to rest upside down. For many long and excruciating minutes that seemed like forever, the safety crews were able to peel away the "top/bottom" of the car so that Newman could safely crawl out.
Of the April race, Poole said, "It's crazy to ask drivers to participate in the kind of racing that goes on at Talladega today and it's crazy for them to willingly do so."
After this weekend's fall race at Talladega, several of the drivers echoed Poole's sentiments almost word for word.
"I knew I was going upright," said Ryan Newman of his crash. "Damn near did a pirouette and came back down on four wheels."
"I respect NASCAR but I just wish they'd respect me," he added.
"You can't ask 43 human beings to be perfect for four hours at a half inch apart from each other," Elliott Sadler said. "We hate it that we're in this box but there's no alternative."
"As long as we keep the banking here at Talladega, we're going to have to keep racing like this...it's not fun by no means," continued Elliott. "The happiest day of the weekend is when you can walk away from this place when the race is over."
With the race red flagged for Newman's wreck, the field was set for a green, white checkered finish. Several drivers ran out of gas and others had to pit in order to make the additional laps.
In the final laps, Brad Keselowski got into Kurt Busch and the "big one" was on. This wreck sent Mark Martin, who was sitting second in the points, flipping through the air.
"I don't know what happened," Martin said. "That's what we do here."
"Congratulations to Jamie McMurray, I'm pretty sure he won," Martin continued. "And that's about all I know about the race."
Poole not only ranted about the racing at Talladega, but also about the reactions of the fans.
"It's also sad that fans who profess to love this sport and the people who compete in it not only tolerate this madness, but embrace it and celebrate it," Poole said. "Instead of talking about how 'cool' Sunday's race was with all of its wrecks and the near disaster that happened on the final lap, fans ought to be screaming their demands that NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation do something to make this race track safe to race on."
It will be interesting to hear the fans' reactions to the racing at Talladega this weekend. If Facebook and Twitter postings are any indication, it would seem that fans are beginning to share their disgust and their concern for the safety of the drivers that they follow so fiercely.
But as Poole so wisely concluded his column on the spring race at Talladega, written shortly before his death, he urged all to dialogue about this problem. In Poole's words, "If you want to talk about the problem, that is the only conversation worth having."
Poole, I couldn't agree with you more. Let's get this conversation started.
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