Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: Safety & Rules Remain a “Moving Target”

Our response last week to Ralph Teagarden’s question about when the checkered flag came to be used, brought some more comment out of the woodwork. This is great! It proves that there are at least a few people reading this.

You’ll recall we mentioned that Shim Malone was the first flagman/starter we saw using the double checkered.

Someone sent me a link to a video which showed Bill Vanderwater waving the double checkered flags in 1969 at Milwaukee. I really appreciate that, because he was my idol. In this particular clip he was working from a flagstand, but I know that Bill liked to work from the track. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

One of the greatest compliments I ever got came while working a midget race from the track. Leroy Warriner came up, stuck out his hand and said, “You remind me of Vandy.” I was lucky to have the late George Adams as a tutor and George frequently worked with Bill in his younger days.

Connie Moore in Vermont asks, “Could you tell me why Hermie Sadler was replaced by Matt…”

Connie, thanks for the question. Not being on the inside, I checked with a very good friend who is very close to the television crew. He admitted that he had no idea, but added that Hermie is still doing a fair amount of work with SPEED on the Trucks and other shows. Maybe someone else who has a clue will chime in.

As with the above note about Bill Vandewater, I am constantly impressed with the knowledge our readers have, and their desire to share with the rest of us.

Ed Biles in Griffin, Ga. wants to know, “Why is tandem racing not used at other high-speed tracks other than Daytona and Talladega?”

Good question, Ed, and thanks. I believe it has to do with being able to sustain the high speeds, and in a relatively straight line. Although some tracks are as fast as the two big ones in regard to track qualifying records (Atlanta, California and Charlotte come to mind), the turns don’t have as large a radius. Also, the biggest tracks gave more opportunity for a pair of cars to break away from the pack with the wider turns.

One thing I noticed in the first Gatorade Duel seemed to indicate to me that the current rules package may have solved the problem, or at least is a step in the right direction. Two cars which had fallen back from the pack paired up, but were unable to catch the pack. Now, these two may not have been particularly fast cars, (I don’t remember…) but a year ago, they’d have caught up with the bunch in a lap or two.

Ed also has another question, “Will the same coolant rules be used at Talladega as at Daytona?”

Another good one, Ed. At this point, I can only assume that they will, judging from the fact that they seemed to work at Daytona. As you know, NASCAR likes to be able adjust their rules to their liking in order to equalize the competition (i.e. “level the playing field”). That, as DW says about safety, is a moving target.

About that moving target in regard to safety …

It was never demonstrated any better than at Daytona. Whoever thought a jet dryer truck would get hit by a race car under caution?

I think some rules will be implemented to slow cars which are trying to catch up to the field after coming out of the pits. However, what happened to Juan Pablo Montoya’s car would probably have happened if he had been going slower, since it was presumably a mechanical problem attributed to a failed truck arm. A slower speed would have lessened the impact, of course.

Maybe they should have thought about this after a tragic accident at Daytona a few years back when a track worker was hit by a car trying to catch up during a support race.

We should all be thankful that it was a “self-contained” dryer truck and not one at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis (i.e., Indianapolis Raceway Park) – and those at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the dryer is on a trailer and an operator sits on the trailer alongside. IMS thankfully have already announced that they are converting their dryers to have the controls in the cab of the truck.

The NHRA also has track dryers on trailers, but caution-flag traffic isn’t a problem on a drag strip.

One question in my mind during the cleanup was the constant reference to “jet fuel.” The IRP dryer was converted to run on pump gasoline. If others haven’t been converted, I have to wonder why.

And another thought: Safety equipment on the track always got my attention. I don’t know how many times I heard on the radio, “One to go this time, John?” and answered that I wasn’t showing one to green until I knew the wrecker, safety truck or whatever was going to be completely clear.

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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