Friday, April 11, 2008

NASCAR and $AFETY -- What's the Real Issue?

NASCAR brass 'talk the talk' but we're not seeing them walk the walk, as the saying goes. For several years, many of us have said and written many times our belief that NASCAR should start taking proactive responsibility for the drivers' physical safety. Now, I am not talking about the COT. There are other equally -- if not more -- serious issues that NASCAR has repeatedly refused to consider, despite many drivers, fans, owners and others in the sport feeling that these should be addressed. The Aaron Fike issue that just surfaced publicly this week -- that Fike admitted actually using heroin on race days -- is yet another prime example of NASCAR not wanting to step in and take care of a situation which can easily be monitored. Since when is NASCAR concerned about the privacy act? It's more likely that NASCAR will only ever react when someone is killed on the track after either a run in with a driver on drugs or a driver using drugs themselves dies. Is that what it takes for NASCAR to see a need to get involved??? That's a truly sad, horrific and scary thought.

For years, many of us have advocated a 'Safety Safari' such as the NHRA and IRL/CART has. If you don't know, that's an entire medical team that travels from event to event as part of the show, along with the race officials. They know the drivers; they have their medical records.They are on the spot and react quickly to medical emergencies. Each track, instead, has their own team which does a competent job; still there are times where if you had a state-of-the-art team like the NHRA/IRL/CART has, it just might make a literal life-or-death difference.

Dare we say it might be MONEY which is keeping NASCAR from enacting routine drug testing and a Safety Safari? The poor, poor France family that owns NASCAR has their spot on the roster of the 100 RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE USA. Guess Brian and his Uncle can't spare a few dollars to quite potentially save the lives of the drivers who make their sport what it is. One can only conclude that the Frances and Company don't want to dip into their millions in profits to help safeguard the lives of the drivers on the track. After all, the COT didn't cost NASCAR anything....

Baseball was in denial over steriods. Looks like NASCAR is once again in denial over drugs in racing (never mind the Shane Hmiels, Tyler Walkers and Aaron Fikes of the sport). Not only should drivers be tested weekly, but crew members should also be tested at least a few times during the season. It only takes one incident to turn into a tragedy. As a long-time fan, even one tragedy is too many.

Drivers such as Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton, to name the more prominent ones speaking out about safety and drug testing are ignored by NASCAR. There is no real leader in the garage who has NASCAR's 'ear' when it comes to what needs to be done for the sport.

I applaud Kevin Harvick for having the courage to speak out this week about drug testing. After all, if you're not using drugs, why would you have an issue with being tested? Maybe the NASCAR officials and sport owners need to be tested. Particularly the owners (not team owners but the NASCAR hierarcy). Because the decisions they are making on this issue are not sound. As I recall, a year or so ago Brian France crashed his Lexus on the way back to his home in Florida. It seems he wasn't tested for anything, either. Hmmmmmm........