Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: Relax! The Ever Benevolent NASCAR Has Everything Under Control… Or Do They?

While NASCAR’s CEO Brian France has been accused of being many things, no one can say that he – and the many minions that surround him – are lazy. After all, running a profit mill, saving the economy, making our skies safer and adding to the problem of global warming every time he opens his mouth is a full-time job! As Brian said himself last fall…

“Running the sport from a policy standpoint and interacting with our partners to make sure we are doing everything we can, that really happens during the week. So if you saw me every day, that wouldn’t – that’s not going to change what happens Monday through Friday. That’s when you really need to see me. And it’s impossible for you to see me.”

Well, even though Brian has been busy not being seen when he should be seen, here is what he and NASCAR have been up to these last few months, even though we couldn’t see him.

First off, last May I reported that NASCAR had become involved in the investigations of airplane crashes. Yes, it was one of their own planes; but nonetheless, NASCAR decided that they could figure out who to blame for it a lot better than the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who usually handles such matters.

Without rehashing the whole story again at this time (yes, that means go back and hit the link provided!), NASCAR quite promptly blamed the manufacturer of the plane (Cessna) for using substandard wiring. Meanwhile, even though NASCAR found no fault towards its own personnel for causing the crash, they did instruct their insurance company to “settle” with a few of the families who tragically lost loved ones in the whole ordeal. After all, they do have a big heart.

“Certainly, no one wanted to make the families on the ground wait for payment,” said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston when asked why a claim of “no fault” still led to an out-of-court settlement with those involved. “It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to make payment and then seek reimbursement later.”

That “reimbursement” was sought this last November, when NASCAR sued Cessna, claiming that the airplane was “unreasonably dangerous and defective” while Cessna’s instructions, warnings, inspections and repairs for the aircraft were inadequate.

In fact, that lawsuit goes on to say… “The incident was entirely due to the negligence or fault of (Cessna), and not the negligence or fault of (Competitor Liaison Bureau Inc.) or NASCAR.”

Well, that certainly is a surprise, ain’t it!? NASCAR’s aviation wing did no wrong!

So, imagine the sanctioning body’s surprise (and their insurance company’s) when the NTSB released their summary findings about the entire incident last month. Well, I guess no one at the NTSB is as stupid as NASCAR thinks the rest of us are, because they came to 13 conclusions regarding the incident – most of which were radically different from what NASCAR initially presented.

Here’s some quick highlights from what they found: (1) The weather radar system anomaly that was experienced and formally documented by the NASCAR company pilot the day before the accident could have developed at that time into a significant in‑flight smoke and fire event; however, the anomaly was temporarily alleviated when the company pilot pulled the related circuit breaker.

(3) Without examining the weather radar system, and then either removing the airplane from service or placarding the airplane and collaring the circuit breaker, as well as making a maintenance records entry, it was not permissible to fly the airplane under Federal regulations.

(4) The pilots accepted the airplane as made available by NASCAR management and maintenance personnel, despite the fact that no diagnostic, corrective or interim maintenance action had been taken to address the discrepancy, and

(12) Although the NASCAR’s corporate aviation division’s standard operating procedures included procedures designed to ensure that airplane maintenance discrepancies would be properly addressed and airplane airworthiness maintained, there was no formal method for determining and ensuring that an airplane was safe for flight; thus management, maintenance and flight operations personnel allowed the operation of an airplane with a known and unaddressed discrepancy.

That led to the NTSB’s final findings: “…that the probable causes of this accident were the actions and decisions by (emphasis mine) NASCAR’s corporate aviation division’s management and maintenance personnel to allow the accident airplane to be released for flight with a known and unresolved discrepancy, and the accident pilots’ decision to operate the airplane with that known discrepancy – a discrepancy that likely resulted in an in-flight fire.”

“This accident is especially tragic not only because lives were lost and people were grievously injured, but because it could have been so easily avoided,” NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said.

Shortly after the release of the report, spokesman Ramsey Poston largely downplayed NASCAR’s previous discrepancies with the board, saying that the probe “was largely about finding ways to make aviation safer, and we support that effort. We have worked closely with aviation industry experts to improve our safety management systems so as to prevent an accident like this from occurring in the future. Our thoughts continue to be with those whose lives were affected that day.”

Meanwhile, back at Daytona in the France’s ivory tower, Brian was busy trying to convince our government to save the auto industry – thus saving the rest of us. The following are some excerpts of Brian’s letter to Congress.

“I’m writing you as a concerned American who wants what is best for our general country. Of course, the domestic automobile manufacturers play a very important part of the heritage of NASCAR; but more importantly, it is vital for all of America.”

“For these manufacturers to survive, your assistance is urgently needed. By immediately supporting America’s automobile industry, you can help our nation avoid a devastating economic blow. We urge the Administration and Congress to support the bridge loan package under deliberation. As unattractive as the idea of corporate federal bailouts can be to many Americans, including me, there appears to be no alternative. Federal aid is in the best interest of the entire country.”

Can you believe that Brian France wrote that? Who’d have thunk that the man who has been quoted so many times in this very column, just for the sake of making fun of his gibberish, nonsensical speech, could actually WRITE so eloquently!!

Perhaps we could get him to write for us!

Stay off the wall!

Jeff Meyer

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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