Apr 9, 2006
That grammatical tortured phrase has become a timeworn truism. And, frankly, it has also become a motto NASCAR racing seems to live by. And yet, though no one is saying the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is, in the vernacular, broke, they're going to fix it anyway, and the "fix" has some drivers and observers of the Nextel Cup scene scratching their heads.
Usually when a race track gets re-engineered it is for safety reasons with the goal, obviously, to make it safer. But the $27 million reconfiguration of the Las Vegas track certainly isn't being done to make it safer. In fact, arguably one could say that the changes will make it less safe. Those changes include raising the baking from 12 to 20 degrees and narrowing the width of the racing surface from 70 feet to 55 feet.
The goal of these changes is to make racing at the speedway more interesting. Up to now the relatively wide, flat track has resulted in predominantly "green flag racing." In other words, the racecars circled the tri-oval rather uneventfully with fewer of the telegenic crashes that spice up other NASCAR races than at other tracks.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway General Manager Chris Powell more than hinted at that when he told the Associated Press, 'We certainly don't have boring racing here now, but we will have more exciting racing in the future. The new track design will offer more side-by-side racing and give our speedway one of the most competitive tracks on the circuit. It's all about the fans."
One just hopes that the alterations don't contribute to crashes that could injure or even kill the drivers who are putting on the show for those fans. And among the NASCAR driver community the reaction to the changes in Las Vegas have been mixed at best.
Jeff Burton was pretty clear about his sentiments. He was quoted by AP as saying, "It's an awesome track. It's a shame they're going to tear this place up. It's ridiculous." Kyle Busch also went on record as being negative about the changes, calling it "a shame." But other drivers were sanguine about the alterations, and a few are said to be looking forward to it.
While we readily acknowledge that NASCAR is a spectator sport designed to give the fans what they want -- and part of what they want appears to be spectacular crashes -- we pray that racetrack alterations don't put race drivers' safety in further jeopardy.
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