CONCORD, N.C. — There are those days and weekends in racing that just seem a bit wonky and this past weekend was indeed one of them.
Calamity had already happened in a big way during Saturday’s American Le Mans Series race at Virginia Int’l Raceway with Eduardo Cisneros smashing into the tire barrier and flipping wildly toward the safety post held by the track workers and one brave ESPN cameraman. The dismantled Porsche came to a stop on top of the tire barrier and Cisneros calmly stepped out of the vehicle and gave two thumbs up.
Flash forward to Sunday. NASCAR was running at the ultra-fast Kansas Speedway, which proved to be a massive handful. Danica Patrick clobbered the wall on lap one. Justin Allgaier, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers all crashed in head-on fashion. Patrick and Busch had onboard cameras and as they hit the wall their heads jerked violently forward. Protected by both the soft walls and head-and-neck restraints all exited their vehicles and were more angry than injured.
Meanwhile in Houston the IZOD IndyCar Series was just wrapping up its doubleheader on the fast and tight street circuit. Will Power held off Scott Dixon to claim the victory in an exciting race, but just at that moment the NBC Sports Network cameras flashed to turn five where three cars lay in a destructive heap reminiscent of a war zone. Takuma Sato, E.J. Viso and Dario Franchitti’s vehicles along with the catch fencing were all mangled.
An immediate sign of life from Franchitti was a good sight, but as NBC ran the various replays the viciousness of the accident soon painted a confusing picture. Despite suffering some broken bones and a concussion the Scotsman escaped with his life as did 13 race fans who were injured by the flying debris from the horrendous accident.
So what to make of all this? I have come to the conclusion to be thankful. I do not want to see my heroes die or get injured, but I will gladly take the latter of those two choices. I consider all those drivers who walked away this weekend lucky.
I also consider us racing fans lucky that we do not have to deal with the stark reality of racing nearly as much as we used to. The bottomless pit of your stomach feeling is not fun. The fact that people can survive what these drivers went through on their racing weekend says a lot about the racing community’s push to safety, but with fans being injured and Franchitti sustaining injury it still shows there is always room for improvement.
To the fans who say racing has lost its romance because it’s not as dangerous as it once was. That was never the intention of it. The intention is the ultimate competition — to beat your fellow driver. If you are looking for violence, maybe racing is not the sport for you.
The rest of us will continue being thankful when our heroes walk away.