Proposed city budget feels good, but is it realistic?

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

By By GREG KATSKI, Staff Writer
Tragedy was narrowly averted Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway when Carl Edwards’ No. 99 car caught the frontstretch safety fence on the last lap of the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Shrapnel from the car, which appeared to come close to clearing the fence and landing in the racetrack’s main grandstands as it flew 15-feet into the air, injured seven fans in the stands, and two were airlifted to local hospitals.
Although a major tragedy was avoided, the real tragedy of the incident, in my opinion, is the nonchalant nature in which race winner Brad Keselowski, as well as fans, addressed the crash. Keselowski, the driver who took out Edwards on the last turn, sending his No. 99 car into a barrel roll, said fans want to see some carnage on the tracks.
According to Keselowski, we, the fans, want to see “contact,” but at what cost?
The cost of one woman’s broken jaw, as was the case Sunday?
Or the cost of more than 80 lives?
That may be extreme, but as ESPN’s Ed Hinton reminded me, racing is an extremely dangerous sport, even for spectators.
Hinton, an experienced NASCAR beat writer, hearkened back to Le Mans, 1955, when racer Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes landed in the Circuit de la Sarthe’s main grandstand, killing Levegh instantly, and taking the lives of more than 80 fans.
So to shrug off Sunday’s wreck, and basically say that less contact is less fun, is inexcusable to me.
Changes need to be made to NASCAR’s restrictor-plate races, particularly Talladega and Daytona. The races were designed to keep cars under 200 mph at particularly fast racetracks, such as Talladega, but are causing racers to pileup. The pileups almost always seem to lead to wrecks.
Between the Sprint and Nationwide races Saturday and Sunday, there were four crashes, two that sent cars flying.
Problem is, some fans seem to be more concerned about being entertained then safe.
Zenor asked a couple of spectators after the race what they thought about the crash.
Tim Apfel of Florida said, “The last two races were great. I hate to say it that way.”
Apfel’s friend, Will Klima, said he wasn’t worried about his safety during the race.
Some of the drivers showed more restraint than Keselowski or Apfel and Klima after the race.
Edwards, who hopped out of his mangled car after the crash and ran to the finish line, sounded completely remorseful after the race.
He also had some choice words for NASCAR.
In the meantime, the show must go on at Talladega and fellow restrictor plate races.
As Keselowski told reporters Sunday evening, “This was NASCAR racing at its finest. This was a great show.”
So come to be entertained, but, then again, at what cost?