Ryan Newman had the look of a man who had just seen God, Sunday as he talked to the press moments after being cut from what remained of his crushed race car. He had likely escaped death by an inch or two when his No. 39 Army Chevrolet went airborne on the back straight at Talledega with five laps remaining. It wasn't the "Big One," but it came too close to being the "Last One."
It is now obvious to everyone but NASCAR that the Car of Tomorrow needs tons of work. Because of the larger rear spoiler the roof flaps don't bite into enough air to work, the narrower chassis isn't stable enough to run in large packs, and the restrictor plate engine continues to be a temporary fix that doesn't allow for any real racing at any of the tracks where it is used.
NASCAR has always been reactive rather than proactive when it comes to safety. It didn't investigate the SAFER barriers until Indianapolis had put them to use. It didn't bother investigating common sense items like closed face helmets and the proper use of seat belts until Dale Earnhardt's death.
It didn't even bother with the roof flaps until Rusty Wallace was nearly killed twice. Even then it was team members who came up with the solution, not the governing body itself.
We understand that money is tight and that teams are barely getting by. We expect that by the time we get to Daytona in the spring there will be more cars without sponsors. We get the economics. What we don't get is the inaction.
Who has to die before NASCAR scraps the restrictor plate and at least puts some 1970s technology in the engine bay? Would the world end if NASCAR went to a V6 or even used fuel injectors? How about spending some money to lower the center of gravity in the present car so that someone could actually avoid trouble? Maybe a trunk lid release that would use the entire rear of the car as an aerodynamic braking surface in the event of real trouble?
All of the above makes all of the sense in the world, which is why NASCAR will use some or all of it the second they are forced to in the wake of another tragedy. The question is who will pay for these advances with their life?
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