We all remember where we where on February 18th, 2001 when we heard NASCAR president Mike Helton famously say ““This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements I’ve ever personally had to make. But after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” Since that day, NASCAR has gone through rigorous safety procedures to ensure the safety of the drivers. When NASCAR was in it’s early stages of development back in the 1950’s, the cars looked nothing like they do today. We went from this
Since Dale Earnhardt Sr’s famous 2001 Daytona 500 accident, these changes included the mandatory use of the Head and Neck Support (HANS) support system, used to prevent drivers from breaking their neck during a crash (Earnhardt famously refused to wear it, frequently referring to it as “a f***ing noose” in the way that it is worn, which is snugly around the driver’s neck.), SAFER barriers, which are basically a foam lining inside the wall, have been built at every NASCAR track that absorb the impact the inevidable crash into the wall, and the race cars themselves have gone through quite a few transformations.
It certainly is working, there has not been a fatal accident in the top 3 of NASCAR’s series since Dale Earnhardt Sr. Major accidents are still taken seriously as they’ve always been, but aren’t fatal. Let’s take Eric McClure’s accident at the Nationwide race at Talledega for example. Thanks to all the safety measures NASCAR has implanted in it’s cars and tracks he survived with only mild internal bleeding and a concussion.
However, it seems the safer NASCAR gets, the more ‘boring’ it becomes. Many of the races this year have had few cautions, and even fewer accidents. Now, more than ever, the cars have gone through transformations. They are not the same cars that where being used as recently as the early 2000’s . Every year NASCAR rolls out a newer, faster, safer race car.
Moreover, since NASCAR’s early beginnings, there have been other safety measures implied. When NASCAR first began, there was no catch fence to keep cars that spun into the wall from going over it and rolling down the side of the hill. There where no SAFER barriers like I mentioned earlier, nets covering the windows to keep debris and driver limbs inside didn’t exist. Now, more than ever, NASCAR has to be one of the safest sports in the world.