During practice for May’s Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe was involved in a vicious accident. Losing liters of blood, Hinchcliffe was saved only by the stellar Halmatro Safety Crew that the Verizon IndyCar Series employs.
Three months later, in NASCAR’s annual return to the same track, NASCAR Xfinity Series Blake Koch was forced to wait for minutes as safety crews failed to get to his No. 8 Toyota.
Koch, 29, was competing in Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 when he was involved in an incident with teammate David Starr while driving through turns 1 and 2. Koch would slow to a stop again the track’s outside wall while Starr’s car stalled up against the infield tire barrier.
The wreck, while not spectacular, had potential to leave Koch hurt. Yet, much to the chagrin of those in attendance, track safety crew failed to make their way to Koch’s stopped car for upwards of three minutes.
That’s simply unacceptable.
If the incident were a one-time, fluke occurrence, then perhaps NASCAR could be given a mulligan. However, when the incident comes only one week after Alex Bowman was able to get out of his burning car and walk away before crews arrived at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it can’t be ignored.
NASCAR’s been lucky in regards to safety in recent weeks. Spectacular crashes like Austin Dillon’s flip into the catchfence at Daytona International Speedway have come and gone without major injuries. However, the precedent NASCAR is setting with slow responses to crashes can’t be allowed to continue.
Eventually, NASCAR’s luck is going to run out. While the cars and tracks may be safer than ever, the fact still stands that NASCAR consists of drivers and vehicles roaring around racetracks at upwards of 200 mph.
It might not happen this weekend, or even this year, but eventually, another driver is going to be seriously hurt. When that happens, the speed of the safety crew could be the difference between life and death.
Just ask Hinchcliffe.
About the author
A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.
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