Elliott Sadler’s crash yesterday scared NASCAR fans. The Elliott Sadler crash also scared Pocono officials, as the Sadler crash was just the latest black eye for them. There were already massive safety concerns about the track, its famed triangle, and the safety features. After a notable wreck in the June NASCAR race, Pocono was already planning to make safety improvements for next year’s races. However, they couldn’t be implemented for this year’s Pennsylvania 500, and the Elliott Sadler crash showed how costly that could have been.
The Pennsylvania 500 was already contending with bad weather late in the race. On lap 165, Jimmie Johnson ran into Kurt Busch from behind, which started a chain reaction that got Sadler involved. When he was hit, he was sent toward the grass and into the guardrail.
The subsequent Elliott Sadler crash was incredibly hard – so much so that the front end was destroyed, and the engine flew onto the track. The guardrail did not have SAFER barriers, which was already a cause for concern at Pocono Raceway.
Safety difficulties were already a big issue in June, when Kasey Khane almost went over the outside wall in a crash. Concerns were at a tipping point after that, as yesterday’s race winner, Greg Biffle, recently said that someone would get killed on this track one day. The Elliott Sadler crash had brief fears of that coming true, but the driver did get out of it.
However, Sadler was sore coming out of the car, and so was Kurt Busch after his spin on the grass. They escaped further injuries, but that wasn’t credited to the track. In fact, credit for the Elliott Sadler crash not being worse was given to the car, despite the punishment it took.
NASCAR has been proactive in shoring up car safety in the last several years. Those measures helped protect Sadler, even though his front end was shredded. But, even though NASCAR’s safety measures looked better after the Elliott Sadler crash, Pocono’s did not.
The raceway is already set to improve the track for 2011, though even that was nearly too late. But, if there were any doubts that they needed to work fast on that issue, they were erased yesterday. Pocono Raceway has had a rather rough summer this year, which will put the 2011 races under greater scrutiny.
The Elliott Sadler crash brought an ugly end to a good weekend, after he won the track’s first truck race on Saturday. Now he is the latest cautionary tale for Pocono, although it is the last one needed to make track officials get moving on safety improvements.
NASCAR Examiner- “Video: NASCAR’s Elliott Sadler suffers hard crash at Pocono”
NASCAR.com- “New car did its job as Sadler OK after violent crash”
The Morning Call- “New barrier can’t come soon enough at Pocono”