Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: This Just In, Racing is Dangerous

Since Dale Earnhardt’s passing, the dramatic increase in safety in the sport of stock car racing has resulted in a bit of complacency among people toward the danger the driver put themselves in week after week. HANS devices, SAFER barriers, door foam and many other advances have allowed drivers to walk away from horrendous crashes that, in the past, would have at least required a visit to the hospital for a few days, if not a trip to the morgue.

The progress in safety is a fantastic step forward for the sport and the lives that have been saved in the last 10 years are all worth every dime that has been spent. However, it’s important to remember that racing is still inherently dangerous and something can go wrong at any time that will result in serious injuries or worse.

During the race weekend at Atlanta, the PR folks from Charlotte Motor Speedway announced an event that will take place during the pre-race activites for the Bank of America 500 in October. The Better Half Dash is a charity competition between the wives and girlfriends of several drivers across NASCAR that will be held in Bandolero racecars on the quarter-mile oval which is in the infield of the front straight at CMS. Proceeds from the event will go to help out the Speedway Children’s Charities and Motor Racing Outreach.

Any kind of charity activity is admirable and an activity that allows fans to become familiar with the women behind the men they cheer for every weekend is a great step towards drawing more spectators into the sport. The Bandolero cars put out by U.S. Legends Cars International are very safe vehicles and there is no doubt that the husbands and boyfriends will make sure that the ladies in the race will have all of the safety amenities possible at their disposal, but it’s not a foolproof guarantee that injuries won’t happen.

And Monday night, during the first practice session for the race, Katie Kenseth was reminded of the dangers when she made hard contact with the outside wall of the backstretch. The result was a torn-up racecar and a trip out of the track on a stretcher.

Kenseth was transported to a local hospital where x-rays revealed a broken scapula (that’s a shoulder blade for those of you who aren’t anatomy majors) along with several bumps and bruises. She was released from the hospital and sent home with Matt to rest, and sadly she won’t be competing next month.

The Bandoleros that these ladies will be driving are powered by a 30-horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine which can propel the small cars at speeds approaching 60 mph. They are real racecars with coil over suspensions, disc brakes, a full tube frame with a rollcage and seven-inch wide racing slicks. They are not rapid accelerating machines because they use a centrifugal clutch but they can stop very quickly.

While this charity event is going to be a lot of fun and there will be plenty of cutting up by everyone involved, when they drop the rag you can bet these women will be just like anyone else behind the wheel of a racecar and they’re going to want to win. Beating and banging is going to occur, whether intentional or not, and the end result very well could be another accident like the one that injured Katie Kenseth on Monday evening.

Whether racing in the Cup series, Bandoleros in a charity race or a late model on a Friday night, racing is a dangerous sport. Cars running on the edge of control can lose control and the end result is torn-up sheetmetal and car parts. When cars that are moving at a rapid rate of speed come into contact with an immovable object, injuries can happen, no matter what safety equipment the drivers are wearing.

Safety has come a very long way in the last 10 years and it is great that we almost never lose a driver’s life anymore during a racing accident. However, don’t let yourselves become complacent. Racing is still a dangerous sport and people can be injured at any turn of a wheel.

About the author


What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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