The ‘big one’ collects 24 victims in Talladega crash, sparks debate over driver safety

By on October 16, 2012

Nascar fans were on the edge of their seats last weekend as Talladega hosted an unexpected pile up of cars that looked like a scene out of a Michael Bay movie and left a large number of hopeful drivers injured on site. 

Notable drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and others where all caught up in the big one. The crash gave Earnhardt Jr. his second concussion of the year.

During such a fast paced and heated event, it is very hard to place the blame on just one racer, however number 14 Office Depot partner Tony Stewart stepped out and took responsibility for the ghastly incident.

It was number 17 Matt Kenseth’s first place lead around the final lap that second placer Stewart was vying to achieve.  Bolting towards the checkered flag, Stewart slammed into competitor Michael Waltrip, sparking the unbelievable 24-car pileup that left Kenseth within close reach of the finish line.

Those unfortunate enough to get caught up in the fury of the crash included motorists Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick as well as many other notable contestants.  The unlucky accident, which proved fatal for many attempting to take the cup, gave Kenseth just the blast he needed to earn his second win of the year, and first since the Daytona 500. Trailing behind Kenseth was Jeff Gordon in second followed by Kyle Busch and then David Ragan.

As far as Chase cup standings rank, leader Brad Keselowski tops Jimmie Johnson by 14 points, Denny Hamlin by 23, and Kasey Kahne by 36 with all other racers left in Keselowski’s dust by at least 40 points.

All drivers came to the track Sunday knowing it held a dangerous reputation and went on to take part in 54 lead changes and at least only two other episodes took place before the final explosive finale went down before a crowd of over 88,000 bewildered fans. Some were more heated than others, after the race, fan favorite Earnhardt Jr. said, “The way we are going ain’t the right direction. There are plenty of engineers out there, I’m just a driver. There are plenty of smart people out there that can figure something out where when one guy gets in trouble we don’t have 30 cars tore up at the expense of it.” The former Talladega winner went on to say, “I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain’t got much choice,” Earnhardt said.

“We can’t get away from each other with the bumpers lining up and everybody pushing all the time and spinning each other out,” Earnhardt said. “I mean that’s no good. It’s not working. … I can’t believe that nobody is sensible enough to realize just how ridiculous that was.

“That is ridiculous that all those cars are torn up. Everybody is just ho-hum, no big deal—that is not all right.”

Maybe NASCAR will notice, after being compared to the sport of gladiators, as was the case after the crash. Even though fans and audiences are in the decline, the ailing sport is trying to do anything possible to boost ratings, and crashes are exciting. The sport may not be able to recover if a few more drivers fall victim to the rigid conditions of the restricter plate courses like ‘Dega and Daytona.

Up until the fatal crash, 2010 winner Jamie McMurray held the first place spot before Kevin Harvick succeeded in spinning McMurray out 6 six laps before flag, bringing about a restart on the track. Not long after restart is when Kenseth took his winning lead. The narrow escape that Kenseth pulled did not give him bragging rights at the top of the Chase standings, but it did give him insight on what he, as well as other racers, need to watch out for as Oct. 28th’s Martinsville, Virginia set heats up.

David McCaw
Senior Staff Writer

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