Well, we all have to admit this past week was an interesting way to kick off the season for NASCAR fans. After everything that happened Saturday with the last lap accident involved the 28 injured spectators, the comments that Jeremy Clements made there was still a race on Sunday to be watched, and a Daytona 500 that made up for what it lacked in excitement for providing information on how the Generation Six cars would fare on a super speedway. Let's start with Saturday and the Nationwide race that ended in a terrible incident in which a tire, an engine, and many other parts went into the grandstand and injured several people, some seriously. I'm not sure how NASCAR plans to work its way out of this situation without paying lots of money, but they will pay. Yes, I know the legal mumbo-jumbo on the ticket basically says fans cannot sue, but in reality that is to prevent frivolous lawsuits. The cases that some or all of the 28 injured will not be frivolous. If you think that going to a race includes having a 200 pound tire and 5,000 pound engine land on you and you don't think you would sue, you are lying.
Here's the thing, NASCAR has done a great job of protecting its drivers, but as many have said this week it's time to protect their fans. I've never been to Daytona, but I have been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway multiple times. When I go to IMS I know that there is a wide gap between the fence and the seating around most of the track. Take a look at the picture below. That's the amount of space between the track and the first row of seats.
Michigan on the other hand, virtually every seat is close to the catch fence in a similar setup to that of Daytona. NASCAR and the owners of the tracks need to move fans away to protect them. Them, in this case are the fans, but also the tracks themselves. No, it won't prevent all incidences from happening, but it would certainly mitigate the chances of something horrific like what happened at Daytona, and also what happened at Talladega after Carl Edwards' crash.
For those who have never been to a race, the seats closest to the fence are the worst. Track owners need to do everyone, including themselves, a favor and remove those seats. I don't have a solution for fixing the fence, but reports indicate that parts of the cars last weekend went through an access gate. The next day the gate was no longer there. Don't put it back, and eliminate these types of gates at as many tracks as possible. Make it inconvenient for people to get on the track.
NASCAR needs to make the fans that were injured whole, and by that I don't mean lifetime seats and paying for medical expenses. That is a great start, but really NASCAR, you couldn't have found a way for Whitney Turner to get home other than riding in the back of a Silverado? She has a shattered fibula and torn Achilles and her father also has health problems. Taking care of these two might cost you now, but you'll gain a lot of public support.
Do the right thing and settle with these people out of court, because I cannot imagine a jury in litigation happy Florida that won't find NASCAR at fault for part of this entire debacle.
After the Nationwide race, Jeremy Clements was speaking with a reporter from MTV in the presence of a NASCAR employee and Clements used a racial slur that NASCAR deemed was worthy of an indefinite suspension. Fine. As much as I disagree with this punishment, it is what it is.
My issue is the way NASCAR handled the situation. It refused to tell anyone what Clements said, who the NASCAR employee was, or who the reporter was. Also the conversation that Clements had was off the record. At this point I don't know who reported the language use to NASCAR brass, but that's information that NASCAR should make available to everyone. Simple reason, if it was the reporter and the conversation was off the record, then how can drivers or other team personnel know what can be said and kept in confidence? If it was the NASCAR employee, then it is a little more excusable because that employee is likely just doing their job by reporting the language up the line.
The indefinite ban though is terrible on many fronts; if a driver on probation threatens a reporter and receives a one-race suspension, how can an off the record conversation lead to an indefinite suspension.
For the record, I don't condone what Clements said, but I also don't know the context so I cannot say I'm offended. No, the use of one word does not offend me. I'm 30, the things people say to me no longer offend me.
Also, for his part in the matter Clements took full responsibility and apologized for the comment. Cool story. My beef is still with NASCAR and its unwillingness to be open and honest about what transpired and how it came into the information. The sport has an image problem, and many believe the sport is fixed. If Jimmie Johnson or Kurt Busch had said these words would they be facing an indefinite suspension? Of course not, so why is Clements?
As far as I'm concerned, NASCAR as a sanctioning body was 0-2 last weekend at Daytona.
Oh, Sunday there was a race. Crazy, they actually did some racing last weekend after all the drama. No jet dryers exploded and no drivers were tweeting from their cars, and overall the race was not the most exciting race I had ever seen.
I'm not surprised, and you shouldn't be either, when the only drive I talk about is Danica Patrick. She is the only driver that was on everyone's minds last week. I know this because she was on television the most, and many credit her for the ratings bump FOX received after last weekend.
Face it, Danica had an excellent race. She finished in the top-10, didn't wreck anyone and no one threw their helmet at her car. She ran up front most of the day and likely earned a lot of respect from many other drivers.
Danica definitely made some rookie mistakes, but I'm sure she will apply those lessons to tracks like Talladega and Atlanta, which are similar in many ways to Daytona.
I'm primarily an IndyCar fan, so I have gone through many years of watching Danica race and she's had good and bad races, but one thing I know for certain is that given the right equipment and the right managers she can succeed. Her definition of success is likely a Cup championship, and while Ryan thinks she might have a chance to make the Chase this year I don't see it. For her sake, I hope I'm wrong.
For her she will have a successful season if she wins a Cup race. Any Cup race. It doesn't matter where it is or how it comes; even if it's a fuel mileage race. Dale Earnhardt supporters cannot discount flue mileage wins considering that's how many of his wins have come.
If Danica wins one race and is consistently in the top-25 weekly she'll certainly have earned her paycheck this season. Time and patience are the keys to her success. She's a good driver that has bright future. She doesn't have to impress anyone. She has more experience racing in different types of cars than 80% of the drivers in NASCAR. She's already won.
So, to conclude NASCAR had a terrible week with a crash it better handle the right way and a suspension it handled in a completely wrong way, and Danica Patrick had an awesome weekend and needs to build upon that.