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No pit road reins bad precedent

Thursday, May. 16, 2013
Next Race NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race WHERE: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday TV: Speed RADIO: Motor Racing Network LAST YEAR’S WINNER: Jimmie Johnson

It seems NASCAR is sending conflicting messages on safety of late.

Last week at Darlington, S.C., NASCAR President Mike Helton addressed a pair of losses by the sanctioning body in the appeals process and critical comments from driver Ryan Newman about the racing at Talladega, Ala.

During the course of his responses, Helton proclaimed, “There is nothing more important to us in this sport than safety.”

Then Wednesday – just five days later – NASCAR announced it was doing away with pit-road speed limits this week’s Sprint All-Star Race qualifying.

Huh?

Pit-road speed limits were implemented by NASCAR during April 1991 and were done so for safety reasons. By 1994, almost every form of motorsports had adopted similar measures.

It’s true this change is only for one special event.

That doesn’t make the change any more understandable.

Do non-points events somehow warrant some lesser degree of safety? Isn’t the danger inherent in auto racing always present?

And secondly, it is true crew members won’t be allowed to go over pit wall during the required four-tire pit stop until the car has completely stopped.

However, NASCAR now is asking pit crews to suddenly do something they never do during any other race weekend. Doesn’t that in and of itself present the possibility of problems?

There might not be a single pit crew member who will give pause over the speed limit change for all-star qualifying.

That is not the point.

There is a message here. Either there is “nothing more important to us in this sport than safety” or there is. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

It would be a disservice to participants and fans if it were the latter.

Notes

NASCAR issues penalties

NASCAR issued several penalties this week, the most serious of which was to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Nationwide Series team, which won last weekend’s race at Darlington with driver Kyle Busch.

NASCAR fined crew chief Adam Stevens $10,000 and placed him on probation for the rest of the year for having an unapproved front upper bumper cover on the car. Car chief Christopher Landis has been placed on probation until Dec. 31.

Also Tuesday, Jackson Dodson II, a crew member in the Cup series, and Frank Earnhardt, a crew member in the Nationwide Series, were suspended indefinitely from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance-abuse policy.

Pit crews, start your karts

The SpeedPark at Concord Mills mall in Concord will host a “Pit Crew Showdown” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The Showdown will feature teams made up of crew members of racing teams as well as family members.

There also will be an All-Star Go-Kart Race with current and former NASCAR stars, and a media challenge.

Included in the grand opening event will be kids racing and a mini-golf tournament for the families. There also will be a fan viewing area for the public.

Rockingham adds all-star drag event

The American Drag Racing League’s “Battle for the Belts,” a standalone all-star event that will pay a $500,000 purse, will be contested for the first time at Rockingham Dragway on Sept. 6.

The “Battle for the Belts” will be a lead-in to Dragstock X, the ADRL season finale, scheduled for Sept. 7-8 at Rockingham.

Nationwide/Truck banquet set

For the fifth consecutive season, the NASCAR Nationwide and Truck series will share the awards stage, honoring the series’ driver and owner champions as well as the top-five drivers in each series. This year’s awards banquet will be Nov. 18 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in Miami Beach.

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