NASCAR's Investigation To Examine Fencing Improvements Before Talladega Race
NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said that the investigation into the Feb. 23 NASCAR Nationwide Series crash that injured 28 fans at Daytona Int'l Speedway "will focus on the gate area of the fencing and how improvements can be made before the next superspeedway race at Talladega, Ala., in May," according to Terry Blount of ESPN.com. O'Donnell said that Dr. Dean Sicking, designer of the SAFER barrier, along with engineers from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, "have been brought in as part of the investigation." Suggestions for "improving the catch fencing include a double-fencing setup or a super-strength plastic glass, similar to what hockey arenas have, instead of fencing." O'Donnell: "It's really far too early to speculate. We have to do the investigation and do it right. There are a number of suggestions out there, and we will look at all of them" (ESPN.com, 3/2). Meanwhile, O'Donnell on Saturday said that the two fans "originally listed as in critical condition remain hospitalized in Florida." In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted both patients "are stable" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/3). An OBSERVER editorial stated no driver "has died in the racing body's top divisions" since Dale Earnhardt's death in '01, and it is "time for NASCAR to take the same care with its fans." NASCAR has shown it can "find a balance between the best and worst of its sport, and it has become a racing industry leader with its commitment to protecting drivers." The people who "pay to watch them deserve the same" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/2).
DO THE CRIME, PAY THE TIME: O'Donnell said that suspended Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements, following his racially insensitive remark last weekend, "will work with Dr. Richard Lapchick before any reinstatement occurs." Lapchick, who founded the Center for the Study of Sports in Society, is a "national authority on diversity issues in sports and does annual studies of each of the four major leagues in minority-hiring issues" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/3). ESPN.com's Blount noted O'Donnell "defended NASCAR's decision to suspend" Clements. O'Donnell also said that NASCAR "has a plan for Clements' eventual return to racing." He said, "Our go-forward plan with Jeremy is to quickly engage Dr. Richard Lapchick to work with Jeremy as soon as possible and get Jeremy back in the race car as soon as possible and as soon as we deem fit" (ESPN.com, 3/2).
VIVA LA MEXICO: Driver Abraham Calderon won Friday's NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series race at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in a car sponsored by the World Baseball Classic. The WBC also was featured on Calderon's race suit, as the driver won the first ever Mexico Series race held outside of Mexico. The WBC sponsored the car to mark the beginning of WBC training camps and exhibition games in Phoenix this week, and was on site at PIR all weekend. Fans were able to purchase WBC tickets and enter to win prizes (WBC). NASCAR.com's David Caraviello wrote the Mexico Series race for NASCAR was an "opportunity to spotlight an international effort that also includes a fledgling circuit in Europe and a more established tour in Canada." For the Toyota Mexico Series, it was a "chance to perform at a major American motorsports facility." Caraviello: "Clearly, it meant a great deal for the Mexico Series drivers to compete in the U.S." (NASCAR.com, 3/1). BEYONDTHEFLAG.com's Mike Smallwood wrote, "I am not understanding the reason behind having a NASCAR Mexico race in America." If NASCAR is "trying to get new fans into the sport from another country then that is like a last ditch effort to get new fans." Although there are "probably many NASCAR fans in Mexico and its great to see them have a series they should not be racing in the United States because that would defeat the purpose of the Mexico in the series name" (BEYONDTHEFLAG.com, 3/2).