By Eric Crampton
NASCAR has made significant safety strides since the death of Dale Earnhardt, and many drivers credit recent innovations for an improved safety record: No deaths and few serious injuries in NASCAR’s top three series in the past five years.
But after watching his drivers get wrecked at high-speed tracks three times this season – including Jeff Gordon knocking Matt Kenseth out of the lead at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday – Roush Racing president Geoff Smith says drivers have been lulled into a false sense of security and are more willing to make risky moves.
“There’s an undeserved complacency that’s creeping into the racing,” Smith said. “To me, there’s a time bomb that’s ticking there. You’ve got to stop it.”
After winning Sunday’s race, Gordon didn’t deny he made the aggressive move in part to pay back Kenseth for an incident earlier this season.
Smith suspects two other incidents this season were intentional and unsafe: Kurt Busch’s crash with Roush driver Greg Biffle at Texas Motor Speedway, which led to a pit-road confrontation between Biffle’s girlfriend and Busch’s fiancee, and the Tony Stewart-Kenseth crash at Daytona.
Sobel finds that offsetting behaviour results in more crashes but fewer overall fatalities. Fans like crashes; so do sports clips shows. Like Sobel says, it’s win-win.