During the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Saturday, fans were on the edge of their seats as the finish came down to a green-white-checker. On the first attempt, however, things got squirrelly, and a wreck ensued. Eric McClure shot down the apron and hit the inside SAFER barrier almost head-on. Afterwards, a 19-minute red flag was flown so emergency workers could get McClure out and life flight him to a nearby hospital.
First off, I want to give my thoughts to Eric and his family; he is doing well, talking and being kept for observation. Secondly, this is exactly why we don’t wish for wrecks.
When people say/tweet, “Come on, give us a wreck,” I have to shake my head. Given, crashes and crumpled sheet metal is part of our sport. It’s a staple at many tracks, like Bristol and, especially, restrictor plate races. NASCAR is a controlled chaos, but, when it wavers, bad things are sure to happen. This is not an easy sport to master; not just anybody can jump in a 3,450-pound mechanical beast and go win races. To be successful in racing, you have to be talented and graced with mental stamina. But, more importantly, a lack of fear is needed. Going around at 200 mph isn’t for the light-hearted. No matter what others say, NASCAR drivers are athletes, and they have the most dangerous job in the world.
Much of the fan base is filled with people who watch just for the wrecking, and, frankly, it’s disappointing. Just because a race has only two cautions doesn’t make it boring. There is potential for some really good racing, the type we saw way back when. That was the real thrill, old-school excitement. When someone crashed into the wall, nobody cheered. Fans had respect, and they didn’t encourage these dangerous situations.
I understand; this is the new generation of NASCAR fandom, so it obviously won’t be the same as it use to be. However, there’s a point where we start to get away from it all, where NASCAR is too controlled and less chaotic, pulling apart from what it truly is. Everyone is calling for cautions, track owners are worried about filling the stands, and the higher NASCAR beings are trying to restraint the Boys Have At It policy they started. All of it gets in the way of what should matter: the racing.
We watched one of our sport’s greatest drivers go in what seemed like a simple wreck at Daytona in 2001. Dan Wheldon lost his life last year at Las Vegas. Some don’t realize how risky racing is, and crashes shouldn’t be taken lightly. Those who say NASCAR is ‘too safe’? They are wrong; it may become too regulated, but you can never be too careful.
Our sport is full of talented people, and I pray none of them get taken away in the blink of an eye.