Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson believes NASCAR needs to learn from the accident in last weekend's Nationwide Series race that left several fans injured, although he urged against any knee-jerk reactions.
A total of 33 fans were injured when pieces of Kyle Larson's car flew into the spectator area following a multi-car accident on the final lap of Saturday's race, prompting renewed questions about the level of protection offered by the barriers at some oval tracks.
According to Johnson, blaming drivers for such crashes is unfeasible at restrictor plate tracks like Daytona.
"I think it's crazy to ask the drivers to do anything different," he said. "It's just impossible. When the [restrictor] plates are put on the car, it requires a different type of racing.
"Your speed comes from the car behind you. So the pushing, not necessarily physical contact, but that bubble between the two cars, is what speeds things along the most and makes things happen within the draft.
"You're going to block. You have to defend. You have to do things on plate tracks that drivers just don't like to do and it's not what we're used to doing. But that's the game. To leave the rules the same and try to impose something on the drivers in how you perform out there, that's unfair. It's absolutely unfair."
Focus on tracks
Although he believes that the responsibility for making things safer lies beyond the reach of the drivers, Johnson is adamant that there are lessons to be learned from the crash
"We need to learn from this," he said. "There are things that we can do, eventually, to create a safer environment for the fans.
"When you look at the proximity of where fans sit near the racetrack, there are certain elements of our sport that are dangerous. Unfortunately, it's just a fluke accident to kind of open everyone's mind to have them look at this again.
"Thankfully everybody is OK. We're going to learn from it and move forward. But there is technology out there. We just have to find the right methodical, smart approach, apply that to our sport, and not create another issue."
One idea that has been proposed several times, including in the aftermath of Dan Wheldon's fatal accident in the 2011 IndyCar finale at Las Vegas, is the installation of plexiglas barriers. Johnson said that he is not opposed to the idea, but warned of the danger of inadvertently introducing new risks.
"I know people have an idea of plexiglas," he said. "I don't disagree with that concept, but the last thing you want to do is create another safety hazard. If that wall was to shatter and send shards off into the stands, that's a whole other issue we have to deal with.
"We have to be careful in how we approach this, and I know NASCAR and the tracks will be."