Safety is on every drag racer's mind
f it isn't on their mind then they are too arrogant to even be counted, in my opinion. With the tragic accident at Englishtown of Scott Kalitta and the many comments made by other pro racers, the media and everyone with a keyboard on the Internet, I couldn't let it go without my opinion.
For several years I have thought the speeds of the fuel cars and Pro Mods have exceeded the shut downs on most dragstrips. Any sort of a problem and they were in the sand, into the net or "out of the facility".
By any standards of any other racing organization this is not acceptable. When the NASCAR guys started flying into the fences that protect the spectators, they figured out a way to slow them down. When Dale Earnhardt Sr. crashed, they started looking at better safety before the sun set that day. What came from that basically changed how drivers and car builders in NASCAR approached safety issues.
When Formula 1 cars were getting so fast that a basic spin-out was sending cars out of the speedway and into the spectator areas, they made radical changes and did it rather quickly.
Why, having seen this problem coming for years, does NHRA now announce they are going to "carefully" look into ways to remedy the problem? Saying that a "knee-jerk" approach would be irresponsible... I must ask, to whom? The next guy they have a memorial decal made for?" Are you freakin' kidding me? If the tracks cannot be instantly made longer or somehow changed to absorb the speed of the cars,.slow them down while you look into a cure. Racing to the eighth mile would be a fair start. The cars would still reach 270+ mph, making them the fastest cars in all of motorsports. The energy they carry at the finish line is reduced and likely prevents what happened to Scott Kalitta.
Soften up the shutdown area. How hard can it be to have something other than a concrete barrier at the end of the track? Think what Pomona looks like: For all intents and purposes that track is not capable or worthy of holding an NHRA national event. Guys hit the sand there in almost every round. This causes thousands of dollars in damages and the risk is out of control.
Rather than wait months for NHRA to look into "the incident" the Pro Racers Organization (PRO) should tell NHRA that until the track they are at that particular weekend is either longer or safer in the final shutdown, their cars will click the ignition at the 1/8th mile so they might as well set that up as the finish line. It is not the best or final answer but in my opinion it is one sure way to reduce the chance of another accident like the one Kalitta had from happening again.
On a different level and one more directed at us local racers. Have you actually gone down to the end of the track at the local track you race at? What is there? If you have brake failure and the chute fails, what is your plan? You better have one -- your life could depend on it!
Nobody likes to admit they could even have an accident like that happen, yet it might. All I ask is that you prepare yourself the best you can so you can possibly survive the ugliest of accidents. I have always made an effort to go to the end of a new track to see what was there, I was just looking for return road exits, potholes, etc. From this day on I will look at it a little different. If I feel it is unsafe, I will not race there, period. You won't get a second chance if you run off the end of the track and then find out there were steel pipes and old guardrail stored down there.
Take some time before the next race. Check all the safety equipment on your cars and use the 'chute if you have one. Some of the racers I know have parachutes that have not been out of the 'chute bag for four or five years. How effective do you think they will be, when they need it?