Do drivers think about what can happen at 200mph?
NASCAR racing would appear safe. But, crazy things happen in a hurry.
And at Talladega Superspeedway, they tend to happen quicker than usual. Pack racing at 200mph creates big crashes.
In opening practice on Friday, Denny Hamlin set a pace at an average speed of 205mph. In previous cases when the speeds got that high, NASCAR introduced new rules, mid weekend, to slow the cars down. But, that wasn’t the case this time.
Brendan Gaughan did a 200mph barrel roll on Monday afternoon in Talladega, Alabama. He rolled completely before returning to the ground on all four wheels.
Safety improvements have come at a rapid and steady rate. Even today, the leading division of stock car racing is always improving.
Aric Almirola crash
Now, it’s rare to see a driver get hurt from an on-track incident. But, anything is possible at 200mph. Such was the case for Aric Almirola at Kansas Speedway last year.
Related: Aric Almirola crash video from Kansas Speedway
Almirola’s crash in 2018 was very similar to Gaughan’s crash on Monday. He was lifted into the car and the car pounded the pavement on the way back down.
In that case, before impact, the rear suspension was knocked out of it. That meant that Almirola’s car landed right on the frame. It sent a jolt through the seat and he broke his back.
Kevin Harvick stated after the Talladega race, “You can’t put much merit into this. It’s kind of like bumper cars with your friends that don’t know how to drive at the go-kart track.”
There were several big crashes on the superspeedway track. It’s expected. But, are drivers thinking of the safety aspect while they’re on track?
Ryan Blaney on safety in NASCAR
Ryan Blaney won the race at Talladega Superspeedway by just a few inches. Laps before, he saw the undercarriage of Brendan Gaughan’s machine.
“When you’re racing and you’re green flag, you’re not really thinking of that,” Ryan Blaney said of crashes after his win at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Honestly, I don’t think of the safety side of it, at all. Granted, I haven’t been around that long. It’s easy for someone like Kevin [Harvick] to relate.”
“Even watching my dad as I grew up in it, it’s amazing what it’s done from the early 2000’s. I can kinda understand the safety stuff. But, I don’t think about that when we’re racing. I don’t think anyone does.”
“But, Brendan Gaughan flipped right in front of me today. I was kind of surprised. I don’t know how he got clipped. But, these cars can get clipped in certain ways that catch the air underneath them. Larson had it done to him in the Spring race here.”
“You hope they’re ok. I asked right away, ‘Is Brendan alright?’ And I know he landed on all four, which is good. But, you’re worried about it bottoming out under the frame rails and him hurting his back.”
“It’s just nothing I really think about. I’m not running out there at 200mph thinking, ‘Ok, am I gonna get hurt?’ I’ve just never thought about that.”
“Maybe some guys do. Granted, some of them have more family than I got. I don’t have children or a wife, or anything. Maybe that would change your mind a little bit.”
“But, I know the safety side is amazing now. Even since I started in late models. But, it’s nothing that crosses my mind. I’m confident in all of it.”