August 17, 2015

Cautions breed cautions: Why do crashes happen at NASCAR?

 A NASCAR race carries with it two realities: speed and crashes, and one inevitably leads to the other

By Brendan O’Meara

Many fans watch NASCAR for the sole purpose of the wrecks, not out of some twisted sadism, but because wrecks are a ripple of action juxtaposed against the relative monotony of the cars going in circles.

You’ve no doubt heard of disruptive technologies. The same is true for car wrecks.

Often they happeBehindNASCARCrashes-Dover-1n when a driver’s car gets “tight” or “loose” and they lose control of the car. This sends them either into to the wall or, playing lead domino, into another car that starts a chain reaction of burnt rubber and mangled cars.

Another reason could be mechanical. The tightness and looseness of the handling encourages loss of control. The brakes locking up or blowing a tire can send a car careening into the fence.

Let’s not forget road rage and revenge. You constantly hear over the scanner a driver’s particular grudge with another. “The 48 better not see me again,” or something along those lines. Said angered-driver-turned-assailant may just run up on someone’s bumper in Turn 2 and spin him out.

Drivers like Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski, three of the more aggressive in the Sprint Cup circuit, will get up on someone’s bumper and turn him around without a moment’s hesitation.

Often crashes follow aggressive restarts. Take, for instance, Joey Logano at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 27, 2009. While the leaders wrestled for the lead, back in mid-pack Logano barrel rolled about a dozen times in Turn 3.

In 2011, Clint Bowyer nearly jumped the inside pit wall during a head-on, bone-rattling crash on the inside fence.BehindNASCARCrashes-Dover-2

The tightness of the Monster Mile lends itself to massive pileups since the congestion is concentrated over such a small amount of concrete.

So what happens afterward? The yellow flag—or caution flag—waves and a pace car escorts the field at a leisurely 55 miles an hour while the on-track crews clean up any debris, fuel or oil.

A tremendously messy wreck, one that spills volatile liquid, will result in a red flag for a complete stoppage of the race.BehindNASCARCrashes-Dover-4

Not until every scrap gets cleaned up will the race “go green,” but as NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip loves to say, “Cautions breed cautions,” and that means another wreck could be right around the corner.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup returns to Dover International Speedway Oct. 2 to 4. Avoid a wreck by purchasing your ticket in advance!

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