Will NACAR be forced to raise height of catch fences? NASCAR officials did not release any new information Tuesday on how they are progressing with an investigation into the Nationwide Series accident Saturday, but it will be up to them, the racetrack—and their insurance companies—to decide what to do next.
Seven fans remained hospitalized Tuesday after being hit by debris from Kyle Larson’s car in an accident that injured more than 30 fans.
With no governmental oversight of how tracks keep fans safe, NASCAR and the insurance companies dictate the standards for fencing for NASCAR races, said former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler.
“It’s what the insurance company dictates,” Wheeler said. “And there is an unwritten group of laws among the speedways. “If (a track) opened and I saw their wheel fence was six feet high, I would take it upon myself to go see the owners and say, ‘What are you doing? You’re going to put us all out of business.’ While that sounds like a crude, loose form of regulation, it really isn’t. It’s really powerful, as a matter of fact.”
There is no timetable for completion of NASCAR's investigation, which will include examining the car and the fencing. Tom Gideon, a former General Motors racing safety manager who now works for NASCAR, will head the probe.
Another component of the investigation could be how to make restrictor-plate racing, where cars run in tight packs at speeds of 200 mph, safer at the high-banked superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. The accident Saturday was triggered by Regan Smith’s attempt to block Brad Keselowski for the win. In the melee, Larson’s car was T-boned by two other cars, and went airborne.
The front of his car was torn apart on impact with the catchfence, showering the stands with debris, including a wheel and suspension pieces. An engine and another wheel came to rest next to the spectator side of the fence.
Blocking also caused a violent wreck at Talladega last October.
Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson said a rule making blocking illegal would be illogical.
“That's plate racing,” Johnson said. “You cannot, as the leader, survive on your own. “You have to look in the mirror, spend 80 percent, 90 percent of your time driving the rearview mirror blocking the lead. That's what you do. To take away the leader's ability to defend his position, it's just a crazy concept for me.”
But most of the injuries were caused by Larson's wheel and other parts flying clear over the catch fencing as can be seen in the following slow-motion video at around the 1/2 way mark. Will insurance companies now force tracks to raise all their fences?