This past weekend brought to light the ugly side of racing again. So I feel its something that needs to be talked about.
Over the weekend Tony Stewart, of Nascar fame, hit a competitor in a sprint car race is up-state New York. The resulted in a death that has been thrown across front pages for the past 4 days now. Kevin Ward Jr. lost his life in a tragic accident, and everyone is once again talking about the safety of the sport in general.
I will not speculate on the events of this past weekend, I am sure that by now everyone has their own opinion. What I want to talk about is general safety in the sport we all love. I know to the outside witness this sport is unsafe and should be done away with, but I think they are way off the true mark.
Racing has always been dangerous, that is a fact that no one can really deny. But with all the advancements in safety equipment, now is the safest it has ever been. No sport will ever be 100% safe, that is just a fact. People need to be able to accept the fact that there are accidents and fatalities in most sports across the board. I mean there are some days I can barely walk across a parking lot without twisting my ankle. Accidents are a part of life. Yes in motorsports they are a little more extreme, but they are accidents non-the-less.
The people who participate in the sport know the risks, but also know the rewards. This is the case for all sports again. Someone could easily by paralyzed or killed in a football accident just like in Motorsports. But the participants love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I have talked to several of my friends over the years about this, and a resounding sentiment of “I try to not think about the what if’s” is always the answer. They just want to race!
Spectators are also at risk, this is true. There have been several accidents in the past few years when car parts have ended up close to if not in the grandstands. I know that I am willing risk it to watch the sport I love. I have been at a sprint car race when a car tore down the fence. I watched it get repaired with zip ties, and then it got torn down again , and pieces of the car came out of the track. I have even had a concussion at a race before after being struck in the head with a rock. Yet I still go, and I still love it.
Everyone knows that racing has gotten safer by leaps and bounds in the past 100 years. Everything keeps improving yearly, and the series do their best to mandate rules that keep both drivers and fans alike safe. The safer barrier, helmets that keep getting better and better, fire suits that work better and are lighter weight. The list could really be endless on improvements. Sadly these improvements don’t help in every single situation. Some situations are impossible to plan for and prevent.
I am not sure that anything could have been done this past weekend, honestly there are so many things that went wrong its just too hard to guess. But I do know that the people who love this sport (in any form) are going to keep doing it. I do know that all of the people who are around the sport are going to keep eyeing new and better ways to make the sport safe for everyone. Just because there was the perfect storm this time doesn’t mean it will have to be that way again. Each tarnish on the name of racing, is another reason to go out and win, to prove the naysayers wrong. So put on those helmets, and do what you love!