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Sun Feb 24, 2013, 12:39 PM

On Motor Racing, Crashes and the cycle of DU conversation. (edited)

Last edited Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:29 PM - Edit history (2)

The crash at yesterday's (2/23) 'Nationwide' series event and the threads it has started remind me of the inevitable cycle of conversation we have on Democratic Underground. NASCAR threads on this board are as predictable as the tides, as are the comments regarding whether or not someone likes or dislikes either NASCAR racing or racing in any form.

Whether it is a crash at a race, a shooting, a Pit Bull biting incident, something, somewhere happening at a Hooters restaurant or public breast feeding, whenever one of these types of things makes news, it is a sure bet there will be numerous threads on DU about it accompanied by an often heated discussion.

I suppose it's what makes this site interesting and why, after almost ten years as a DU'er, this site remains as my "homepage".

A bit about my history for those that don't know me;

I have been a racing enthusiast (I refuse to use the word "fan" because it is short for "fanatic" and though I have great affection for motorsports, I am hardly fanatic about it) since I was very young. I remember watching the Monaco GP, the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500 on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" in the 1960's.

As soon as I was able, I involved myself with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) as a "Corner Worker" or Course Marshall, specifically in what is known as "Flag and Com" - working out on the racecourse on a corner somewhere, watching the event and assisting in the safety aspects of the race. Corner workers are the first ones on the scene on road courses (They aren't used in oval track racing) when a driver spins off or is involved in a crash. The region I was involved in, in South Florida was VERY proficient, as we had a crew of about 100 or so that not only attended events, but also seminars training us how to handle fires, driver extraction, race control, corner station operation and setup and radio communication. Our region worked club and regional events as well as covering the professional events that took place within the region, such as the Miami Grand Prix (when it was run on the streets of downtown Miami), The Cart/Indycar events held at Tamiami Park, near the FIU campus from 1985 through 1988 and the short lived West Palm Beach IMSA race. It was at the 1987 (Edited again. I said 1988, but it was '87. The first professional gig I took started the '88 season working for a firm owned by drag racer Kenny Bernstein doing promotional work for Buick Motorsports.) Tamiami Indycar event that I was able to parlay my nascent over-the-road truck driving career into a professional involvement with the sport I loved. I worked in Motor Racing a total of 13 years, primarily involved in Marketing and Promotions, driving display trucks or engineering support vehicles in Indy Car, NASCAR, NHRA and IMSA racing. I loved every single minute of it. I proudly wear an Indianapolis 500 winning team ring from 1994.

For those that make comments on threads on this subject that suggest they don't understand the appeal or just "don't get" why others like to watch cars go around a track, let me just simply say this;

If you have to ask, you won't get it.

It's like the appeal of a Ferrari or a Harley Davidson. Is a Harley the most advanced piece of motorcycle engineering out there? No. Of course not. But it is what it is, and many millions of people, myself included, love those machines for all their flaws. Is a Ferrari the most practical car made? Absolutely not. But if you have never driven one or have never spent any time looking one over from underside to seat belts, it's difficult to "get it".

I have attended, as either a participant or a grandstand ticket holder, well over 250 (Edited to correct that. I said 500 originally. 13 years at about 18 each professionally and another 8 years at about 10 each as a volunteer, plus assorted others. I regret the exaggeration) racing events, from the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500 to local dirt tracks and just about everything in between, with the notable exception of a Formula One race. I have been to just about every major racing facility in the United States, both permanent and temporary, from the Meadowlands in NJ, to Maple Grove drag strip in Reading, PA to Road America in Wisconsin, to Long Beach, CA, to Homestead, Fl, to Vancouver, BC to Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.

It has long been said that Motor Racing worldwide, in all its forms, attracts more spectators than ANY other sporting event. This continues to be true.

It has also long been said that the first automobile race took place shortly after the second car was built. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it isn't far off the mark.

Humans love speed, and they love mechanized speed. It puts us in a place or circumstance we are not naturally able to be. We, as a general rule, also enjoy watching things that go fast, be it a horse race, a motor race, a sailing race or an airplane race. BTW, before motor racing became as popular as it is today, air races used to draw tens of thousands to events held nationwide. Now there are but a handful of major air races in this country (The Drink company Red Bull has done much in recent years to change that), the Reno event being the most notable.

Crashes and accidents happen in racing. They are bound to. Mix speed with the unpredictability of a machine and couple that with numerous humans and you are going to have crashes. It has also long been said that people don't go to races to see crashes, but if there were no crashes, people would not watch racing. This is not far from the truth.

Having attended as many races as I have, and having spent as many hours in garage areas and around racing folks as I have, let me assure you that today in the Garage Area of Daytona, the incident of yesterday is AT THE VERY TOP of everyone's mind. There is not a single person participating in the event today that doesn't have a heavy heart because of what happened. The fact that spectators were injured is not something that ANY of those men and women take lightly. And it is a fact that the mood is never darker than when there is a death.

But the show must go on. It's what they do. And tens of thousands of ticket holders will be there and want to see a show.

And they'll get it.

In all the years I worked in the business I have been at races where no fewer than 20 individuals have been killed. Some happened right in front of me. Most happened on the other side of the track from where I was, but I was watching it happen on a monitor. Some were corner workers, some were spectators and some were drivers. And the worst were those very rare occasions when all of the above were involved.

These events are tragic. They affect those involved in the sport in ways the casual observer may not comprehend. But they go on and they do it again next weekend, hoping upon hope that it won't happen again.

But it will.

And they'll still race.

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Arrow 27 replies Author Time Post
Reply On Motor Racing, Crashes and the cycle of DU conversation. (edited) (Original post)
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 OP
99Forever Feb 2013 #1
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #2
cherokeeprogressive Feb 2013 #3
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #4
TheMightyFavog Feb 2013 #18
Liberal Jesus Freak Feb 2013 #5
Spitfire of ATJ Feb 2013 #6
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #12
Spitfire of ATJ Feb 2013 #15
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #16
Spitfire of ATJ Feb 2013 #17
GiveMeFreedom Feb 2013 #7
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #11
Archae Feb 2013 #8
Mnpaul Feb 2013 #19
Mopar151 Feb 2013 #21
riderinthestorm Feb 2013 #9
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #10
rppper Feb 2013 #13
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #14
Blue_Tires Feb 2013 #20
ChisolmTrailDem Feb 2013 #22
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #23
GoneOffShore Feb 2013 #24
A HERETIC I AM Feb 2013 #25
GoneOffShore Feb 2013 #26
Mopar151 Feb 2013 #27

Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 01:02 PM

1. Thank you.

Very well stated.

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Response to 99Forever (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 01:18 PM

2. Thanks. n/t

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 02:06 PM

3. Probably the best treatise I've read on motorsports here at DU.

The thing I find most frustrating is when a poster claims to hate motorsports but has every insight into why others like it so much. It's the old "I can't stand it but I know why you love it" thing, and it's almost always about the wrecks.

And the debate about whether or not drivers are "athletes"? Find me a sport where a participant's heart rate stays above 200 for almost three hours, and whose body is subjected to as many as 2.5 downward Gs and 1.5 lateral Gs almost 1,000 times in one event. No conditioning involved there... huh?

Anyway, I think you nailed it with this post My Friend.

Stay Safe
Chris

P.S. Did you have to drive through any of last week's weather? I drove the stretch between Cheyenne and Laramie with 35mph winds and sideways snow. Wasn't fun. Again, STAY SAFE!

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Response to cherokeeprogressive (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 02:26 PM

4. I've only seen a little snow this year, and that was 3 weeks ago.

Thanks very much for your comments, old pal.

As far as your athlete comment is concerned, you are spot on.

I remember one year in Surfers where we had a weather delay. Surfers Paradise is about the same distance from the Equator as Miami is, and as such is subject to tropical weather patterns. Heavy storms come through and are gone in short order.

Anyway, drivers in all long distance racing hydrate themselves rather comprehensively before a race, as they will sweat out a considerable amount of liquid during the course of an event.

So there they are, all sitting in their cars on the grid, waiting for the rain to stop coming down in buckets so they could start the race in some realm of safety.

For 20 minutes.

Then 30.

At about the 45 minute mark, the calls started coming in from the drivers to their crew chiefs that they had to pee!

It was sort of funny....actually, it was damned funny....that virtually the entire grid climbed out of their cars to use the Porta-potties!

Race Control is like "Will those guys get BACK INTO THE BLEEDIN' CARS?!?!" WE HAVE A SCHEDULE TO KEEP!

Most race car drivers at this level have what is known as "Freakish" vision - basically 20/200 as opposed to 20/20. The equivalent of what a modern fighter pilot has. Their reactions times are equally astounding, well above the average motorist.

Are they athletes?

You're god damned right they are.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 09:57 PM

18. In some racing they don't just hydrate before the race, they do in race as well.

I'm subscribed to a guy who does Let's Play videos on Youtube. He's currently doing an F1 2012 coop with a fellow YouTuber. He was amused by the "drinks" button on the steering wheel depicted on the screen. I looked into it. They were first installed during a race in Malasyia and the rehydration system was made with a similar mechanism that you or I would find in our cars. Only in our cars this mechanism is used for the windshield washer.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 03:32 PM

5. Nice.

I am not now nor will ever be a fan of racing. My brother was a huge NASCAR fan from a very early age. When he died at age 32 I took it very hard. It's been 15 years and I now laugh when I think of him dying in Bristol Tennessee at the races--just as he would have chosen. I follow NASCAR a little now, just in his memory

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 03:47 PM

6. My only comment on the accident was the attempt by a corporation to own all video of it....

Even individual cell phone videos.

I have nothing against racing. Some of the experimentation and innovation is incredible. Increasing power and mileage came from the track. I feel it will be the track where electric car innovations will spring. The White Zombie is a great example with dual motors switched between series and parallel for high torque and then speed for instance using an onboard computer. I picture multiple electric motors becoming the standard.

We may even see someone come up with a car that can do the entire Indy 500 with the only pit stops being for tire changes.

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 05:38 PM

12. It's already been done;

We may even see someone come up with a car that can do the entire Indy 500 with the only pit stops being for tire changes.


There were diesels entered in years past that could make the 500 miles without refueling.

The effort by NASCAR or whoever it was to try and quash video of the incident is, I am sure at this point, a failed issue. They must know by now that in this day and age when there were several thousand miniature video cameras in attendance, that they had no hope of suppressing all of it.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #12)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:29 PM

15. So you feel the effort was motivated by suppression and not profit?

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #15)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:38 PM

16. If you mean the effort re: the videos of Saturday's crash....

I am quite sure it was done for the purposes of image control.

The Daytona International Speedway can ill afford the idea getting out that their racing facility is not safe for spectators.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #16)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:42 PM

17. I figured they didn't want the news media to broadcast video of the crash for free.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 03:51 PM

7. Maybe we will

have rocket ship races to other planets? I like racing, motor sports is exciting. But, I do feel there is a certain type of "spectator" stereotype that people who like motor sports are all from the deep south, so to speak. Liked your post, very honest and insightful.

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Response to GiveMeFreedom (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 05:30 PM

11. At some point, at some time in the future, I have no doubt there will be spacecraft racing....

of some sort.

It is inevitable.

Thanks for the compliment.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 04:12 PM

8. NASCAR came from bootlegging, while air races were a great way to test fighter designs.

We do love speed.

Every time somebody goes for the land speed record, or fastest boat, airplane, even bicycle, we are fascinated.
We're also a little envious at times that we aren't the ones behind the wheel or stick.

Even simply human-powered racing, like at the Olympics, holds that same fascination.

And there are offshoots of racing that make their way into our ordinary lives.

Airbags. Seat belts. Etc...

Like I said in the reply title, NASCAR began when bootleggers would get together and see who had the best souped-up cars, originally modified for outrunning the cops.

Military contractors around the world would enter their designs in air races.
The British Spitfire was an outgrowth of an air-racing winning design.

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Response to Archae (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 11:27 PM

19. And Daytona was originally run on the beach

only one straightaway was asphalt the rest was sand. Pretty impressive considering the cars where stock. The only modifications allowed were safety equipment.

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Response to Archae (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 06:35 PM

21. Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that - but it's a fair start.

There were a lot of bootleggers involved in NASCAR's beginning, but they did'nt start stock car racing, or dirt racing. NASCAR was an effort to run crooked promoters out of racing, and present a more professional image. If you run with NASCAR, the race purse is in the bank before the race, not in "Bubba's" pocket as he dissappears over the hill. Big Bill France was a driver before starting NASCAR - and one of the owners he drove for was Raymond Parks, the "Moonshine King" of Atlanta. Mr. Parks(wore a suit and tie to the races!) employed the Flock brothers as liquor runners, and they raced for him some as well. Bob Flock once left the track during a race, and lit out down the road, with Revenue men in pursuit!
I spent an evening with Tim Flock backalong, at a snowed-out car show, trading Daytona beach racing and Mt. Washington hillclimb stories. Our sport seems to bend ruffians into gracious gentlemen.....

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 04:31 PM

9. I know absolutely nothing about racing but I can appreciate the effort you took here

to explain it to newbs like me. You did a great job keeping it clear, focused and interesting. I know I won't ever go to a race or watch one on teevee but I also like to think of myself as interested in the world around me - even those parts aren't my cup of tea.

I too am professionally involved in a sport that has the same WTF-meter amongst those who can't or won't try to understand. So I can relate a bit to the desire to try to explain.

Good job! And thank you!

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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 05:29 PM

10. Thank you for your very kind words.

I appreciate it.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:00 PM

13. Great post! Thank you for your insight!

It's hard to have a good racing enthusiast conversation here sometimes due to the NASCAR stereotypes. I grew up in rural east Texas. I have fond memories of helping my neighbor find old V8 Junkers that ran, cutting out everything but a seat and speedometer, installing a roll cage and racing them at local dirt tracks on the summer weekends as a teen....he would let us drive in the races....it was a great time....we built up our old chevelles and novas and cutlasses and raced them at an old AHRA drag strip...there was always comaradarie....

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Response to rppper (Reply #13)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 06:05 PM

14. Many an automotive engineer began his enthusiasm spending Saturday nights at the local dirt track.

.it was a great time.


I'll bet it was.

Thanks.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 05:54 PM

20. kick

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 06:46 PM

22. Very much appreciated post

I am a long-time NASCAR enthusiast and I really have to thank you for your post.

You said it, the bottom line:

"If you have to ask, you won't get it."

And with regard to catastrophes on the track, excellent commentary.

So, thanks again A HERETIC I AM.

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Response to ChisolmTrailDem (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:18 PM

23. You're very welcome.

and thanks.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Original post)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:22 PM

24. thanks for the dissertation. I'm not a Nascar fan, more of a rally sort

But understand the appeal.

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Response to GoneOffShore (Reply #24)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 07:25 PM

25. At the end, as far as the appeal is concerned, they are all the same.

European Rally crowds are among the most die hard race fans there are, in my opinion.

You're welcome. Glad you liked it.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #25)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 09:15 PM

26. Absolutely the same.

I think I've never gotten into NASCAR because the cars, for me, aren't as attractive on an aesthetic level. Though I do get why some people love it.

I just went to a Spirit of Saab event at the Simeone Motor Museum here in Philadelphia. Along with the cars there were a couple of pictures of Erik Carlsson the famous rally driver, sometimes known as Mr. Saab. One of them showed him sitting near his overturned car on a corner having a beer. The car wasn't going anywhere.

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Response to GoneOffShore (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 10:31 PM

27. Erik on the Roof!

"Erik pa Taket", if foggy memory serves me well, was his nickname on the factory team. The crew made his first "racing" seat by plonking him in a snowbank, and making a mold from the impression.

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