Finding a Safer 'Dega: Are NASCAR's Efforts Enough?

Rebecca SpenceCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 26:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Claritin Ford, goes airborne as Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Steweart-Haas Racing Chevrolet suffers damage and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard / AMP Energy Chevrolet drives at the conclusion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 26, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We are all familiar with the statements by now. It was pre-race in California where Ryan Newman, driver of the No 39 Army Chevy, pointed out the flaws in the advances made to avoid another tragic event at Talladega.

“Ultimately, it’s not the answer,” said Newman when asked his feelings on the raised height of the Talladega catch fence. “Ultimately we have to keep the race cars on the ground.”

“The parts and pieces that flew through the fence, and hurt those people, no matter what the height is you are still going to have that.” Newman continued.

“I wish there would be more done to the race cars to keep them on the ground. There are things they could be testing like different style roof flaps and things like that. They might be for next year.”

While Newman applauded an effort being made, he made it very clear it was a band-aid solution.

It was very shortly after those comments that NASCAR issued its announcement that the size of the restrictor plate was being changed for the AMP energy 500 at Talladega in less than a month.

Kasey Kahne was asked Tuesday if he thought the restrictor plate change would change the racing at Talladega.

“I think it will be similar.  I think it will slow it down a little bit would be what I would think.  I'm not real sure. A lot of times we go to a race, Daytona or Talladega, or the teams have a chance to work on the cars and the engines, and they do that halfway through the weekend; the Daytona 500, they will do it and take a little bit of speed away because we are running too fast.  You know, I don't think it will change the field or the racing action at all.  It may just slow the speed down a little bit.” Kahne said.

Again, NASCAR was showing an effort, but would it be enough?

Logically speaking as long as cars are racing they’ll be wrecking. With the understanding that Talladega, being not only a fan and driver favorite, is also a time honored tradition; let us assume that NASCAR would never take it off the schedule.

Will the changes set forth make a difference?  Well, no. They won’t.

In looking at the Carl Edward wreck from this spring, speed played a factor, but was not the ultimate cause of the devastating event.

The actual wreck would have been less intense had he not gotten a single tire off the ground.

The science behind the wreck shows that the initial impact caused an aerodynamic lift, the very event that the roof flaps are there to hinder. And looking at a mathematical formulated model of the event would show that excluding the secondary impact from the car behind him, the car would have fallen back on to its wheels.

The same could be said for accidents on other tracks. Take for example Joey Logano’s wreck at Dover.

At a track like Dover the speed is nowhere near comparable to those run at a superspeedway like Talladega.  And yet, we had another car with its wheels of the ground and ultimately flipping seven and a half times.

So why then, is NASCAR not implementing changes to the roof flaps or other aerodynamic properties of the race car?

Instead of mandating a change, NASCAR is leaving teams the ability to add a wicker bill to the wing end plates allowed at all other tracks on the schedule as an option.

NASCAR may well be working on more mandatory aerodynamic technologies as we speak. However, none of them have been brought to light as of yet.  


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