Despite yesterday's incident, today is a new day. It is exciting to realize the seemingly endless off-season for NASCAR's Sprint Cup series is finally over. There will be no more counting down to the Daytona 500. TODAY IS THE DAY! The race will run in just a few hours.
The excitement is palpable, despite yesterday's horror, the fans involved in the melee are receiving the best care possible, drivers are uninjured, and NASCAR is trying to move on.
The accident itself was very troubling because it is so easy to imagine what it was like to be in the stands as fans enjoyed the final laps of an exciting race. In an instant lives were changed. There will likely be other changes that grow out of this event--additional safety features perhaps--but those will remain to be seen.
It bears stating that this was an accident, an unpredictable moment in time that could not have been prevented. There is no question that NASCAR is cognizant of the safety issues associated with driving cars at speeds often times in excess of 200 mph. NASCAR has taken as many precautions to protect everyone associated with the sport--both drivers and spectators. The fact that those drivers involved in the melee emerged from their destroyed race cars unhurt is a testament to that.
I was impressed with how several people have reacted to this event.
First, when Tony Stewart won the race, his reaction in victory lane couldn't have been more correct. He was soft-spoken, thoughtful, and despite his excitement at winning the race, he shoved that emotion into the shadow in favor of the obviously injured spectators. Stewart's reaction was as an appropriate champion of the sport.
Another reaction that was laudable was that of Kyle Petty. Petty is a NASCAR commentator and spokesman. He is in my view, one of the best. He is honest, truthful, and pulls no punches. Petty pointed out that drivers are aware of the risk they take when they put on a helmet and climb into their race car, but spectators shouldn't be at risk when they come to a race. He indicated that fans should feel safe when they sit in the stands and prepare to enjoy a race. In my view, Petty is such a class act. I believe he is one of the finest spokespersons for the sport.
As the day wore on and videotapes of the incident became available, I couldn't help but notice the quick reactions of both spectators and track personnel when it was realized there were injuries. There were heroes in the stands and heroes that work at the track.
I can't help but question NASCAR's official reaction. While it is appropriate to report news in a timely manner, so as to make certain facts are provable, and correct, NASCAR takes that a step too far. They attempt to control the news.
As an organization, NASCAR's priority appears to be to protect its brand rather than to allow the news media to do its job to report news. This fits with NASCAR's attempts to direct every aspect of the public's perception of motor sport racing. It was very disturbing to learn that NASCAR attempted to censor fan videos of the accident, requesting You Tube to remove them from public view. NASCAR claimed it was a copyright infringement. Later, it was stated that it was to protect those involved.
NASCAR officials need to realize that this is the 21st century when citizen journalists and fans with cell phone cameras fill the stands. Their efforts to censor such events will never occur. They have much to be proud of, so there is no danger in resting on their laurels.
In my view, not only does NASCAR need to continue to work on safety issues, and other things under their control, they need to work on their own attitudes.