The drunken fan made it all the way to the top of the fence that surrounds Richmond International Raceway.
This morning, fans and those within the NASCAR community alike are having a good laugh over the Richmond fence-climbing debacle. I won't lie, I've gotten a good laugh out of it myself.
What could have been
But what few seem to realize, or at least fail to acknowledge is how serious this could have actually been. No, I'm not just referring to the very real possibility of the tipsy fan plummeting 20 feet down and into a pack of 40+ cars thundering around Richmond at well over 100mph.
NASCAR is under a microscope from the mainstream media right now (most who can't tell the difference between a sprint car and a stock car). Of course, this is because of the tragic incident that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr. The firestorm that would have ensued if this situation turned tragic would have been overwhelming.
Brought to their knees
We look at this as just another bizarre and somewhat humorous moment in NASCAR's 65 year history. What this could have easily become is terrifying to fathom though. Going beyond the tragic loss of life that would almost certainly take place, it would basically destroy any kind of reputation the sport has been pushing so hard to mold over the last two decades. Stock car racing would come under an unrelenting attack from every angle imaginable.
The repercussions would go far beyond a massive blow to NASCAR's reputation and a fan losing their life. Crushing lawsuits, trauma to those who witnessed it, an incessant black eye cast over the sport...NASCAR would be brought to their knees.
The infamous close call - 1987 at Talladega
Those who weren't even alive to have a memory of it are still aware of the 1987 Bobby Allison crash at Talladega. Many are rattled to even think about the consequences it would have had if that car made it into the stands. The then blossoming sport of NASCAR would have been snuffed out with a whimper, and that would have been the end of that. Few are actually acknowledging how close we came to something that could have had consequences just as severe in this particular situation. It's incredibly unsettling to think about really.
We were lucky
A close call like this just can't be allowed to happen. The stakes are way to high to allow such a vacuous oversight. We'll remember this incident with a chuckle, but don't erroneously overlook the underlying ramifications of such a stunt, should it have gone deadly wrong.
We were lucky at Richmond...we were very lucky.