Dangerous Short-Track Crash Involving Pace Car Shows Why Safety Standards Matter
It could've been much worse.
If you're an American racing fan and you've never visited your local short track, you're doing yourself a disservice. Not just because it offers an excuse to eat fried food on the world's most uncomfortable bleachers, but because you get a night of cheap, local economy-supporting entertainment, sometimes punctuated by the drama of a crash. However, something fun and relatively innocent can sometimes turn downright awry due to the lack of safety standards and a sprinkle of negligence, as it was the case on Saturday evening at the Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Florida.
Sometime during the night's Mini Stock contest, the race's leader (the car in red) found themselves the target of an overtake up the inside. Their blue pursuer appears to make light contact—a bump-n-run as some call it—pushing their car to the outside and opening the door for a pass. Either due to losing control or as a move of retaliation, the race leader skews back across the track, colliding with the car that initially upset them and causing a crash that involved at least four vehicles, their own included.
Once off the pavement, the former race leader found themselves on course for a small berm used to "protect infield lighting," and being at the mercy of the grass, they couldn't stop their car in time. It launches off the embankment and rolls over the top of the track's Ford Mustang pace car.
Sure, the crash makes for a laugh and possibly a "wow, look at that!" moment, but the truth is that things could've been much worse. Sadly, it's this track's deficiencies that played in the hands of the out-of-control car that could've easily been stopped by a proper barrier. Hell, even hay bays could've helped. Instead, the lack of a barrier and the odd landscaping around the light poles created a ramp for the car to fly and land on top of the Mustang.
As you can see by the pace car's brake lights that were applied just before the crash, someone was sitting in the driver's seat. Even a slightly different angle of approach by the oncoming car could've injured the Mustang driver had it penetrated the windshield at the right (wrong?) angle.
Commenters speculate that had the pace car not been there, this race car could've ended up inverted in the track's infield pond, which could've presented another set of dangerous problems. While no Facebook Physicist should be taken too seriously, this crash goes to show that modern safety standards exist for a reason, and they should be applied to all forms of racing. In this case, an Indy 500-grade SAFER barrier isn't exactly needed, but a good 'ol tire barrier could've made a huge difference.
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