France addresses Austin Dillon's wreck and NASCAR's commitment to future solutions
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France assembled his team on Monday morning to review the vicious crash involving Austin Dillon on the final lap of the Coke Zero 400.
A chain reaction triggered by Kevin Harvick tapping Denny Hamlin, sent the No. 11 Toyota spinning into Dillon and launched the No. 3 Chevrolet from the inside lane over two rows of cars and into the catchfence. After he landed on his lid, Keselowski slid into Dillon and sent him twirling like a top.
France told SiriusXM NASCAR radio that his staff “hard at work on the crash”.
“We’re sorting out what some of the best options we have in front of us with technology and innovation to make things better,” France said. “And the work has already begun on that. That’s job one at NASCAR — safe, tight, good competition.
“We’re already on it.”
With the installation of additional surveillance systems that NASCAR assembled at the start of the season to monitor and police pit road, France says they’ll be able to review the chain of events leading up to the accident from every angle. NASCAR also collected the remains of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy for further review at the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
France added that NASCAR will also use the resources within the team to develop solutions moving forward.
This is auto racing. We’re always going to have challenges and we’re going to have hard crashes like last night that thankfully, everything was ok.
“That’s the benefit that we have at NASCAR,” France added. “We are the only ones in auto racing that have a full-time research and development center where their sole responsibility is to sort out these kind of issues that make them better.
“This is auto racing. We’re always going to have challenges and we’re going to have hard crashes like last night that thankfully, everything was ok. But you learn from every single one of these things and I would say the real good news for us is this is what we do. We have a group of people that woke up this morning trying to figure out how do we make this better…We’re never shying away from jumping right in the middle of making things better than they already are.”
France added that NASCAR continues to advance its safety initiative whether it was the introduction of roof flaps following Rusty Wallace’s horrific crash at Talladega in 1993 or reinforcing the catchfences following accidents such as when Brad Keselowski sent Carl Edwards into the Talladega fence in 2009 or as recently as Kyle Larson’s wreck in the XFINITY Series race at Daytona two years ago.
“We learned a great deal after (Larson’s accident) and reinforced the catchfence in different ways,” France said. “We went from an engineering standpoint right to work and we’ll do the same here. Our work in safety, whether it’s the race car itself — which held up beautifully, thankfully — or certainly making or fans safe, that work, it never ends in auto racing. And in NASCAR, we take that responsibility at the top of our list and we’ll all work on it.”
From the driver’s seat
Despite NASCAR’s safety effort, wrecks happen. But there’s something about restrictor plate racing that breeds “the big ones”.
Jeff Gordon described Sunday night’s racing as crazy. Gordon, who finished was one of just five drivers in the Coke Zero 400 field that competed in Dale Earnhardt’s final race, was grateful that the fall Talladega race will be the final time he straps in for a restrictor plate event.
It is literally like a video game out there these days, except for it’s real life. It’s crazy.
“You knew it was going to be crazy,” Gordon said. “Right from the start I thought it was a wild race. A lot of action and crazy stuff going on...We were pushing like crazy, just wide open.
“It is literally like a video game out there these days, except for it’s real life. It’s crazy. It’s really crazy. I love Daytona. This place has been amazing for me. I can’t believe this is my final race here, but after going through that experience I’m glad I only have one more restrictor plate race left.”
After finishing eighth, Ryan Newman’s told USAToday, “NASCAR got what they wanted.
They just don't pay attention to safety. Simple as that.
“That's the end of it,” Newman added. “Cars getting airborne, unsafe drivers, same old stuff. They just don't listen.
“They had an event in 2001. They've had several events since then. They just don't pay attention to safety. Simple as that.”
France understood the drivers’ concern. He also feels that in the heat of the moment the harshest critiques will arise.
“I think emotionally, and at the end of a long day, drivers are going to make some comments whatever they may be,” France said. “Obviously, what we do want is the closest, tightest racing that we can but we put safety at the top of the list for obvious reasons. We pursue those things as we go along and have a track record of getting those things right although it’s a moving target and it’s never simple.
“An accident like last night, boy, it takes your breath away and it should. But that’s auto racing. We’re working on solutions all the time to make racing safer and better.”