April 30, 2009
By Doug Demmons
Normally, I wait until after an event is over before I write a story about it. At least that’s how I have approached it in my 30 years as a journalist.
But this being a new era and all I figured I could chuck those silly rules. So here’s my story on the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway 12 months from now --
TALLADEGA -- Jimmie Johnson took the lead on Lap 102 and held off Kurt Busch over the final 86 laps to wins Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Johnson won the first race at the track since it was reconfigured following an incident last year in which Carl Edwards’ car struck the fence and eight fans required medical attention.
The new track, with a mere eight degrees of banking in the turns, was redesigned to more closely resemble Indianapolis Motor Speedway or Pocono. Drivers said the changes greatly reduced the stress level they normally feel on the track during a Talladega race.
“Heck, I almost fell asleep out there. My crew chief had to remind me to turn left,” joked one driver.
Many of the estimated 800 fans in attendance left before the end of the race. Some were less than pleased.
“I can’t believe I drove 500 miles to see this (expletive),” said one fan from Ninety Six, S.C. “I might as well have gone to Fontana.”
“I’m just glad Dale Sr. isn’t alive to see this,” said a fan from Hot Coffee, Miss. “If he were here today, he’d kick somebody’s ass.”
Track officials say they understand the fans’ anger but changes had to be made.
“After last year’s race we decided that this track was just too dang exciting, so we had to act,” said a NASCAR spokesman.
That’s about how the racing would go at Talladega if some folks get their wish. They want to send in the bulldozers and flatten out the turns. They want drivers to boycott the race.
It’s the only way, they say, to make the place safe for drivers and fans.
That’s absurd for two reasons.
First, you can’t make a race track completely safe for drivers or fans. It is an inherently dangerous sport and while it can always be made safer it can never be made safe.
Secondly, there are less radical solutions that do not involve plowing up 40 years of tradition -- like adjusting the holes on the restrictor plates to bring speeds on the straights down from 200-plus mph to 190 mph.
Bulldozers would certainly solve the problem of cars getting up into the fence -- just like amputating a leg would solve the problem of an infected toe.
Doug Demmons is a writer and editor for the Birmingham News ~ he writes daily and weekly auto racing columns ranging from NASCAR to open wheel to Formula One, local tracks and more... you can read Doug's columns online at Blog of Tommorow
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