Monday, August 18, 2014

NASCAR's Wrongheaded Ethic Strikes Again

NASCAR now has a new rule - or a renewed emphasis on an existing one - whereby it requires drivers to stay in their racecars after an accident. It typifies NASCAR's ethic of "there ought to be a rule" against something, much like the absurdly common refrain "there ought to be a law." But as is so often the case with NASCAR, the new rule is based on a fundamentally flawed premise.

As Road And Track shows, these stay-in-your-car rules simply don't work. The scenario of a new rule solving nothing and instead creating more problems is a scenario we've usually seen from NASCAR over the years, notably with its preposterous "safety" rules for pit road stemming from a problem NASCAR itself created - closing pit road beginning in March 1989 that created more pit crashes, a result never made better by subsequent pit speed limit rules.   We also saw this with NASCAR's ridiculous out-of-bounds rule and freezing the field, neither of which has made anything safer (see the Ryan Newman crash at Watkins Glen for the continued worthlessness of freezing the field).

The new rule comes from the Tony Stewart disaster with Kevin Ward, and the approach of adding a new rule shows a bigger problem - the refusal of racing to hold someone accountable.   The solution to this particular issue is not - and never will be - adding a new rule.   The solution is to hold the responsible driver accountable, and it is Tony Stewart.  

NASCAR needs to be taking away rules, not adding new ones.   Pit road needs to revert to the rule package of 1988 and before - pit road stays open at all times, drivers enter and exit when they want, at what speed they want, and they must pay attention to where pit crewmen are; this was fundamentally a safer environment than the one that has been prevalent the last 25 years.   Take away out-of-bounds lines and let the racers race back to the line when the caution comes out; freezing the field has not prevented one crash.   Don't legislate when drivers can exit their racecars; if something like what Tony Stewart did happens again, then hold the specific driver accountable. 

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