Whenever a driver is involved in a wreck, the team asks over the radio, “Are you OK?” Because while Dale Earnhardt was the last fatality in a NASCAR national series event, injuries still occur due to crashes. Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman are just three drivers who have sustained injuries in a race that forced them to miss further races.
This year, in all three national NASCAR series and the ARCA Menards Series, there has been a bevy of hard hits. Fortunately, other than Derrick Lancaster, all other drivers have escaped injury, with Lancaster recently returning home from the hospital.
Still, does NASCAR need to do anything about these violent wrecks?
Because many wrecks have not been the fault of one driver, other than ensure all safety features function properly, series officials cannot make any rules changes. Thankfully, the safety features of the race cars have worked, so all drivers have recovered.
For example, when Nick Sanchez wrecked his No. 2 in the ARCA race at Phoenix Raceway, all people saw was the junked racecar and Sanchez’s frustration with another driver.
Don’t know what to say………..gutted. I was running P3 and a lap car 3 laps down clipped my right rear and sent me head on in the wall. Can’t thank my team @RevRacin enough. We showed our speed tonight, on to Talladega. pic.twitter.com/aSpDRLYSh9
— Nicholas Sanchez (@Nicksanchez080) March 13, 2021
Fortunately, despite a destroyed car, Sanchez only left the track with displeasure at another driver. His hurt feelings prove his car’s safety features worked.
Likewise, in the most recent ARCA race at Kansas Speedway, Bret Holmes got loose after being in the middle of three-wide racing on the first lap. Holmes tried to save his No. 23, but it spun, and Scott Melton tried to avoid the spinning car but instead hit the driver side of Holmes’ car.
We are GREEN for ARCA racing in Kansas … or … we were …
Big trouble on the first lap for Bret Holmes and Scott Melton. Caution is out. pic.twitter.com/AHFkHPIWr0
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 1, 2021
Both drivers were successfully released from the infield care center, but Melton was visibly shaken after he feared he injured Holmes.
Again, when a driver pancakes another car on the driver-side, and all those drivers feel is frustration, it is a credit to NASCAR for developing race cars that can withstand hard contact.
When the NASCAR Xfinity Series traveled to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Noah Gragson appeared to be headed to his first win of the season. However, David Starr, who was driving lower to allow Gragson to pass him, experienced a tire issue. Starr’s No. 13 shot up the track and hit the wall, and Gragson slammed into the rear end of Starr’s car.
Checkers just became wreckers for @NoahGragson.
Holy cow. ?
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) February 27, 2021
Gragson and Starr feuded over the incident. Gragson argued Starr should have felt the tire issue earlier. The incident occurred during a lengthy green-flag run, so while both NASCAR and Goodyear could investigate what happened to the tire, driving a car with a tire problem is difficult.
What went unnoticed from this memorable moment from that race was both drivers were physically fine. Starr’s car shot up the 18- to 20-degree banking in the corner to slam into the wall. While his car pounded the wall on the right side, the SAFER barriers absorbed the size of the impact, and Starr was OK. Gragson too was leading the race and rear-ended Starr’s car. In a streetcar, the airbags would deploy, but physical injuries could still be sustained. NASCAR cars’ safety features differ, but the fact Gragson physically was fine is a testament to those components.
The Penskes collide coming to Turn 3, Brad Keselowski gets T-boned by Kyle Busch and clips the catchfence in a huge fireball – everybody out of their cars and okay, fortunately. And Michael McDowell is a Daytona 500 winner! pic.twitter.com/6GgS3rv0H4
— Vincent Bruins (@VincentJBruins) February 15, 2021
Everyone was released from the infield care center, and more astoundingly, nobody overly advocated for change.
The season-opening race weekend at Daytona is known for heart-throbbing melees. In the 2020 Camping World Truck Series season opener, Ty Majeski flipped onto his roof, and The Big One eliminated many of the contenders.
This year in the Xfinity season opener, Tommy Joe Martins appeared to have control of his car as he spun, but the front end caught the grass, and the splitter was obliterated.
And so did the moisture left in the infield grass from the rain earlier in the day. P24 is P24, and we’ll be back this weekend hungrier for a better finish. pic.twitter.com/UVJM4UWq1J
— Martins Motorsports (@TeamMartins) February 18, 2021
Martins called for artificial turf to be installed to replace the grass, but he did not comment on his physical well-being. Why? Because he was OK. If one wrecks their own personal vehicle, though, where all four tires are lifted off the ground and the front end is demolished, the person probably is lucky to walk away sore. More likely, that person needs medical treatment. Per NASCAR protocol, Martins went to the infield care center, but he was released.
The only bugaboo for wrecks this year came at Talladega. In the ARCA race, a bump draft went wrong, shooting Lancaster hard into the wall, and his No. 29 burst into flames.
A scary crash for Derrick Lancaster during the ARCA race at Talladega. pic.twitter.com/9f090hZMZL
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 24, 2021
ARCA officials confirmed they were investigating the incident to hopefully prevent other competitors from receiving injuries in a crash such as that one in the future.
Joey Logano gets airborne and goes for a WILD ride at Talladega! pic.twitter.com/7E9vCyqCZD
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 25, 2021
Logano called for changes from his scary wreck.
“I am wondering when we are going to stop because this is dangerous, doing what we are doing,” he said. “I got a roll bar in my head. That is not OK. I am one hit away from the same situation Ryan Newman just went through [in the 2020 Daytona 500]. I just don’t feel like that is acceptable. A lot of it is the big spoiler and the big runs and all the pushing. It is nobody’s fault.”
NASCAR personnel were astonished at the magnitude of the wreck, and series officials are considering slowing down the speeds of the cars at the second Daytona and Talladega races later this season.
Nobody wants drivers to be injured or worse following an on-track incident. Logano’s wild flip was cause for concern. Give NASCAR credit, though. Logano was outspoken, but he was OK. Furthermore, the safety features work quite well. In the case of Lancaster, series officials want to prevent similar outcomes. Drivers’ safety is always a paramount concern.
As the Next Gen car is ushered in next year, NASCAR has made a slew of changes to it. It expanded the fuel cell, its tires will now be with a single lug nut, etc.
One change NASCAR should not make it to it? Any of its safety features. Over the last two decades, they’ve been shown to work, and give NASCAR credit for that.
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.
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