In the aftermath of the spectacular crash at the end of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, in which seven fans were injured by flying debris entering the grandstands, NASCAR officials pledged to make a careful analysis of the performance of track's safety fencing as well as the racecars, and to make whatever changes may be deemed necessary to reduce the chances of similar incidents happening in the future. However, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Monday that the sanctioning body believes that the track’s catch fencing succeeded in its primary mission of Carl Edwards flipping car out of the grandstands.
“One of our primary goals over the years is to build a restraining fence that keeps the cars and parts and pieces out of the spectator areas. And nothing is bullet proof,” Hunter said. “From what we saw yesterday, the retaining fence did what it was supposed to do; it threw the car back on the racetrack. There was some debris that went in the grandstand that, fortunately, did not invoke serious injury.”
Blake Bobbitt, one of the seven injured by debris, remained hospitalized in Birmingham, Ala., Monday with a broken jaw. The other six people injured in the incident all sustained minor injuries and were treated and released.
“We will analyze the fence and make sure that it did what it was supposed to do,” Hunter added. “We think it did. If there’s something that we come up with, as we analyze this accident, we will certainly put it into play. We will make it as safe as we humanly can.”
NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, noted that the roof flaps designed to present the cars from flipping did deploy as designed on Edwards car, but the Roush Ford was then struck from behind.
“One of the things that contributed to this is generally when the car turns around, it’s got a car that the cars behind it are not still accelerating and trying to keep their speed up, like as the 09 did trying to obviously get around the 99. So it probably didn’t scrub as much speed off, it came around, and quite quickly, and didn’t scrub as much speed off as it needed to. But the roof flaps deployed, and the car started to set back down, and as the 39 came into the picture, you know, it punted the 99 car, and that’s what got it up into the fence.”
He added, however, that analysis of the incident could result in more changes to NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow” design.
“Things will not forever be status quo, Pemberton said. “We will continue to look at things, but this car is better suited than the old car is. And, quite frankly, these situations that come up from time to time are a one off, and things that you don’t necessarily foresee, and they are hard to recreate. So we will take this and we will evaluate everything the best that we can.”
This particular incident resulted from a combination of both aggressive driving on the part of Keselowski and blocking on the part of Edwards, Pemberton reckoned, although he stressed that both drivers stayed within normal competitive boundaries for the last lap of a race.
“They were in bounds, or above the yellow line, and I would say that Carl was doing everything he could to try to maintain the first place coming across the line, and the guy trying to win the race was running second. That’s what these guys do.”