Amateur Footage of NASCAR Wrecks
November 24, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Sure the television broadcasts catch every angle of NASCAR wrecks. However, I think views from the grandstands offer a unique view of the thrill and danger of these events.


Fire always brings out the "whoos." Big wreck at the 2010 Nationwide series race at Talladega.
Nothing like the exuberance of an amateur cameraman who captures that one big wreck he has dreamed of. 2010 Samsung 500 in Texas.
A flying truck from this year's truck race at Daytona.
Another view of Daytona truck wreck, coming right at you
In May of 2011 Clint Bowyer almost flips during a Natiowide Series race.
Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon were taken out late in a race by Clint Bowyer at Martinsville this year. The crowd rejoiced.

An absolute mess from an ARCA race in May of this year at Talladega.
My personal Holy Grail. Footage from the grandstands of Geoff Bodine's horrifying wreck at the first truck series race at Daytona. A second view from pit road.

To steal from Louis C.K., you don't have to smart to enjoy wrecks but you have to be stupid not to.
posted by zzazazz (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
At that Martinsville Speedway crash, the crowd was rejoicing because it clearly was the NASCAR equivalent of a fender-bender. Martinsville hasn't had a fatal accident in over 25 years.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:00 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh. "Fully Cooked Meatballs" indeed.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:01 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to think of a way to reword that Louis C.K. quote in a manner that includes the word "Vulture", but I just can't come up with it...
posted by HuronBob at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2012


To steal from Louis C.K., you don't have to smart to enjoy wrecks but you have to be stupid not to.

I dunno, watching cars crash was fun, until I developed empathy. After that, it lost a great deal of luster.

If it were just the cars crashing, I could watch it all day. But, knowing that real live people are being horribly hurt or outright killed in most of this footage, I just feel sad.
posted by Malor at 8:22 AM on November 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


As far as injuries, except for the Bodine crash no one was seriously injured in any of this footage. Bodine suffered a broken back in his wreck.
posted by zzazazz at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


At that Martinsville Speedway crash, the crowd was rejoicing because it clearly was the NASCAR equivalent of a fender-bender. Martinsville hasn't had a fatal accident in over 25 years.

I'm not an expert race-watcher, but, out of interest, how early can one tell that a crash isn't going to be serious? Logically there are factors that feed into such a prognosis - the speed the cars are going at, the extent to which each spins and so on; do racing enthusiasts have an internal calculus for working out at what point they can breathe out and start cheering?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:30 AM on November 24, 2012


I had a pretty good view of the Charlotte Motor Speedway yesterday.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:31 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it were just the cars crashing, I could watch it all day.

Without any crashing, it seems like watching blood circulate - with one platelet squirting ahead of the others once in a while.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2012


Which, Egg Shen, is why I don't watch NASCAR.
posted by Malor at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not an expert race-watcher, but, out of interest, how early can one tell that a crash isn't going to be serious?

Intensity of impact. Not flips, spins, flying pieces -- how HARD the hit is, to the extent that you can almost feel it if you're in the vicinity. My prime example here isn't a racing accident but something that happened just up the street from my apartment a few years back. I heard the screech of rubber ... pause ... and then a crunch mixed with a thump. I didn't need to see it to know it was bad. Enough so that I was dialing 911 before I left the building.

Fortunately, both cars had airbags. Worst injury seemed to be a broken wrist.
posted by philip-random at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2012


That's a whole lotta people watching machines go around in circles.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


also, previously ... sort of.

no humans were badly hurt in the making of this FPP
posted by philip-random at 8:38 AM on November 24, 2012


When I go to watch baseball in San Diego or Los Angeles, I do the same thing I did when I was a teenager at (old) Comisky Park in Chicago: I show up, eat some hot dogs, enjoy the weather and the view, and have fun with my friends. The game is secondary, something that generally goes on in the background giving us an excuse to be there, and occasionally becoming very, very interesting (such as a record being conspicuously broken during the last Dodgers game I attended.)

For a lot of fans, NASCAR is very similar, and in an odd way, a lot like watching the sea at sunset, with the roar of the cars and the roar of the fans and the hypnotic circling of the cars. Except once in a while, a giant monster jumps out of the sea and plunges onto a shallow-swimming whale, and then things go back to calm again.
posted by davejay at 8:42 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


As far as injuries, except for the Bodine crash no one was seriously injured in any of this footage. Bodine suffered a broken back in his wreck.

Gives me an idea for a headstone, something like "Except for HuronBob, no one was injured in the accident, it's all good."
(I think I'm gonna want to use comic sans for that)

NASCAR
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 AM on November 24, 2012


What I don't get is why people bother going to a sporting event (or concert), only to experience it live through the back side of a camera.

I always thought that the fun about being there is that you are in the moment, even if it's to socialize with friends.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:02 AM on November 24, 2012


Which, Egg Shen, is why I don't watch NASCAR.

Somebody asked Bill Vukovich, the '53 and '54 Indy 500 winner, what the secret to winning is. He said "There's no secret. You just press the accelerator to the floor and steer left."
posted by mhoye at 9:10 AM on November 24, 2012


I think for NASCAR fans it can serve the same purpose football serves for many (but not all) football fans I know, namely a reasonable excuse to take a nap. You can sort of lie on the couch with one eye open and you're obviously doing something so you can't be disturbed and it's not wasted time.

I used to work with some people who liked NASCAR and they explained that the only way to enjoy a race was to watch the first five laps, fall asleep, and watch the last five laps. I don't really care about car racing at all but I totally get that; it's nice to have a relaxing napping routine.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:15 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I went to my first Nascar race at Charlotte about a month ago. We sat five rows up at the exit of the corner onto the start finish straight. HOLY SHIT. We were literally right on top of the cars. The formation laps behind the pace car were impressive, then the pace car pulled off and the cars came by at speed. Nothing prepares you for the experience. It was the single most frightening thing I've ever voluntarily witnessed. It was so impressive. You have no frame of reference for the experience of seeing something as big as a Nascar going 185 mph so close to you. It feels wrong and scary. And awesome.

The wind created by 43 cars in close proximity going so quickly so close creates a hurricane, every spectators ball cap ten rows up blew off, everyone that had bought popcorn lost it as it was picked up in the wind. It was a truly impressive experience.

After a while the novelty wears thin and your left with a headache from the drone, but the first fifty laps are something I'd recommend anyone able experience once.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


The "horrifying wreck" link goes to a lap of wreck-free racing at the October Charlotte race. I am pretty sure Geoff Bodine drives the pace car these days so I was watching it to see if he ran into the pit wall or something.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2012


I'm not an expert race-watcher, but, out of interest, how early can one tell that a crash isn't going to be serious?

Generally the more spectacular it is, with parts flying off and cars going everywhere, people don't get hurt. The more stuff is removed from the car and the more the car spins or flips the more the energy is dissipated. That is energy that would otherwise go into stopping the drivers internal organs within his body, which is main causes of crash death other than physically hitting something (the car usually stops that thing hitting them with the crush zones).

Now that cars are stronger, the times when a car disintegrates to the point the driver is exposed are usually rare, but that used to be an issue too - the car absorbed too much energy for the car to retain integrity and the driver is then exposed and can be hurt.

The ones that I know have hurt someone are the ones where a car goes straight into something and just ....stops. Doesn't bounce off too much and doesn't spin into the barrier, but goes straight in. When the accident was fast, but doesn't look that bad, there's a higher chance of the driver being hurt.
posted by Brockles at 9:38 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


First off people don't socialize during the race. Most wear hearing protection, or headphones that monitor racetrack chatter. ( I listen to the radio play-by-play).

Secondly If you ain't wrecking you ain't racing.
posted by Gungho at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I (still) can't get my head around NASCAR, as am used to F1. NASCAR just seems like deliberately slow driving, or a permanent formation or warm-up lap. It jars my (European) brain, which keeps telling me "Surely, at some point, they'll accelerate and start properly racing soon".

Here's Heidfeld zipping around the track in the forest (car handicapped to top speed of 275km/h) and Grassi driving round a rainy Spa using one eye.

If you're into the whole crash thing, then Mark Webber and Jenson Button.
posted by Wordshore at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crap. Here is the link to the Geoff Bodine crash Near the end of my posting this some odd things started happening in the box I was typing in.
posted by zzazazz at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2012


It was the single most frightening thing I've ever voluntarily witnessed. It was so impressive. You have no frame of reference for the experience of seeing something as big as a Nascar going 185 mph so close to you. It feels wrong and scary. And awesome.

Glad someone said this before we got too far into this thread, because it's very true. Not everyone needs to enjoy NASCAR, that's fine, but I do wish more people would realize that watching it on TV and watching it in person have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The TV broadcast turns it into an almost static thing, it gives you such a high-level view that you have no sense of where the difficulty or excitement lies. Everyone likes to say "circles circles circles", but that's so missing the point.

I (still) can't get my head around NASCAR, as am used to F1. NASCAR just seems like deliberately slow driving, or a permanent formation or warm-up lap.

Yeah, they are totally different and not at all interchangeable. Really the average speed of F1 races is significantly slower than the average NASCAR race, but that's just because the F1 tracks have turns that require, you know, actual breaking and acceleration afterwards. NASCAR just doesn't do that. So I suspect that's the real difference you see, the lack of acceleration. Which, by the way, the TV broadcast doesn't show very well on F1 either. The trackside cameras can't keep up with the cars unless they're looking down a straightaway, where you don't really see the speed at all. The best view (in my opinion) actually comes from the helicopters, where you can see just how incredibly fast the cars accelerate out of a turn. It's totally crazy.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:09 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


NASCAR, as a sport, is all about logistics and the pit. Tires, fuel, teamwork, and a million tiny choices are what add up to a win. The key to understanding the sport is in the recognition that the driver is the least important element. A great driver with a poor crew will consistently lose against a poor driver supported by a great crew.

But NASCAR, as entertainment, is half driver-drama and half demo derby spectacle. Every stupid tweet, interview, and press event all add up to a WWE/The Voice reality tv show extravaganza and one with explosions and burly brawls! Whooo!
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:15 AM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Any number of my obsessions are less weird than following "motor-sports".
posted by clvrmnky at 10:37 AM on November 24, 2012


"NASCAR just seems like deliberately slow driving, or a permanent formation or warm-up lap."

To read this from an F1 fan cracks me right up. I'll watch any kind of motor sport, but F1 is the most boring racing I have ever seen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm by no means a NASCAR fan so I can't really speak to the specifics but if it was indeed all about pressing the accelerator and turning left pretty sure Dale Earnhardt Jr. wouldn't have made $28 million in 2011.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


To read this from an F1 fan cracks me right up. I'll watch any kind of motor sport, but F1 is the most boring racing I have ever seen.

What was the last F1 race you watched? This entire season has been fantastic. Even the normally less-exciting races (Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain) have been interesting. Really the only snoozer has been India. Do yourself a favor and watch the Brazilian GP tomorrow, it should be a good one.
posted by clorox at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, then there's poor Indycar, which doesn't really try to make wrecks a part of the entertainment the way NASCAR seems formulated, but, when one happens, it can be deadly horrifying.
Warning: The Dan Wheldon crash
posted by Thorzdad at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2012


if it was indeed all about pressing the accelerator and turning left pretty sure Dale Earnhardt Jr. wouldn't have made $28 million in 2011.

You're right. It isn't. He doesn't just turn left and press the accelerator, he is also a team owner, a fan favorite, and provides a good ROI for advertisers.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:16 AM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


NASCARNAGE.

But for me, the crashes refresh a sense of how impossibly difficult driving a race car must be, and the way in which catastrophe awaits only the mistwitch of a single muscle fiber to billow forth in smoke like a demon invoked-- a manifestation of what one of my English professors called the thin ice theme in American life, or a parable of the damned and the elect.
posted by jamjam at 11:23 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But for me, the crashes refresh a sense of how impossibly difficult driving a race car must be, and the way in which catastrophe awaits only the mistwitch of a single muscle fiber to billow forth in smoke like a demon invoked...

Well...The thing about NASCAR, though, is the formula is seemingly created in order to facilitate the difficulty and chance of mishap. The cars are (relative to other forms of racing) overly-heavy, with a combination of relatively soft suspensions, crap tires, and under-performing brakes. Add to that, the limits on the powertrain on the superspeedways that creates the insanity of bumper-to-bumper pack-racing, and it's no wonder that "The Big One" is practically a guaranteed part of the show.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:35 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because it annoys me, it's not "a NASCAR". NASCAR is the body that sanctions the races and writes the specs that the various cars can have in the various series. Also, the premier series will always be known as Winston Cup to me. So if you're talking about one of those cars, it's a "Winston Cup car," or more generally a "stock car". (grand national and the other series have different specs)

Sprint can kiss my ass.

Now that I've said that, I'll let you in on a little secret. I haven't sat down and watched a race on TV in more than a decade. ;)
posted by wierdo at 11:37 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


To steal from Louis C.K., you don't have to smart to enjoy wrecks but you have to be stupid not to.

This is only true until you've watched a few people die (or get really fucked up like Zanardi). Then serious wrecks become just sort of gross and unpleasant when you're watching them live.

The end of the year recaps are still fun, since they come with the NO SERIOUS INJURIES disclaimer. But races live... no. Except for really minor stuff, wrecks are just nasty.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:40 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


NASCAR always reminds me of that curious sport of the future. I'm not talking about Ice Bowling, I'm talking about Competitive Lunar Landing. Everyone at ground control behind rows of consoles, each man, woman, and dolphin staring fiercely at their displays. Up above, the pilots with their determined eyebrows report the thickness of debris in the upper atmosphere. The announcer reminds the audience of the Space War of 2031, children at home cover their eyes as their favorite pilot narrowly passes through ancient wreckage. The tension is high, the drama is throughout. The announcer reports that the home team's shuttle has left the stratosphere. Everyone cheers. But what is this? S.R. Intergalactic shuttle #12 just entered the thermosphere, how did they do it? Our team is still in the mesosphere, how did S.R. Intergalactic do it? The camera feed cuts to the ground control of S.R. Intergalactic. The team looks much the same as the home team's, but a cybernetic elephant is reporting on the sensor array, that's Thalm Thalmura, the Thai logistics genius. He is hard at work, and his fans are at the edge of their seats. But oh no, Thalm has bad news for S.R. Intergalactic's pilot Yaacov "Banshee" Williams. His early acceleration was at the cost of trajectory. He'll need to adjust, but can he do it in time before the shuttle enters the exosphere? Oh no, a collision with Shuttle #86! Yellow flag. Safety dampeners are in effect. The fuel ignites. What an incredible explosion, the auroral zone blooms well over 20°. Red flag, red flag.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:46 AM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


And for HuronBob, you could call the people who like the crashes NASCARNIVORES, or if you really must have the 'vulture' overtone, NASCARRION eaters.
posted by jamjam at 12:06 PM on November 24, 2012


But, knowing that real live people are being horribly hurt or outright killed in most of this footage, I just feel sad.

Safety in motorsport has come quite a long way and fatalities and gruesome injuries, while they still occur, have become the exception. However, it's tough to hide the fact that major safety changes were often reactionary rather than precautionary (until recently, I'd argue), and were usually preceded by a series of deaths. A good example of this in recent years is the implementation of policies across motorsport bodies mandating use of head restraints like the HANS device to prevent basilar skull fractures: among the motorsport gods' preferred methods of driver dispatch (Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s death in February 2001 led to mandatory use of head restraints by NASCAR drivers in October of that year). We have to go a bit further back in time to chronicle the evolution of safety regulations in Formula 1.

Car design, too, is playing a greater role in keeping drivers alive as of late, notably - though not solely - in Formula 1 and the Prototype series of Le Mans. Here's an example of a horrific-yet-survived Le Mans crash, and here's another from Formula 1 (the drivers, respectively, are Scotland's Allan McNish and Poland's Robert Kubica). Watch how the cars behave during the crashes, and pay particular attention to their cockpits - you'll notice that they remain intact. Anthony Davidson had a similar incident at the 2012 edition of Le Mans - his car didn't disintegrate, but his back broke. He talks about it here.

On-course medical response is taken pretty seriously, too, and response plans are well-developed and constantly under review. Since Formula 1 starts have a history rife with bedlam, an absolutely ragin' medical car is deployed at the back of the grid, and is piloted by a race driver and carries a race doctor. The driver arrives early and practices the course in the days leading up to the race, often with the Safety Car and its driver. When the lights go out on race day, he and the doctor floor it around the course, chasing a disappearing grid on a good day, and roaring up to an incident before the dust settles on an eventful one.

I went looking for a list of non-fatal NASCAR crash incidents to square up against HuronBob's fatality list and couldn't find one. Maybe they're too numerous to count! As a fleshy human being, anyway, I almost feel like there are more opportunities at any motorsport event to get your shit ruined in the pit lane than there are on-course.

Of course, not everyone is saved (drivers like Dan Wheldon and Henry Surtees among those lost recently), and every death is awful, but we're a lot better at this shit than we used to be. I still cringe at every wreck, though.

And while we're here, NASCAR is hard and complicated. It doesn't have much in the way of overt sexy math or inventive circuits, but anymore you can't just climb in, mash the Go pedal and turn left if you expect to do well. That's the biggest crock.

Relevant links:

FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety and Sustainability - homepage.

How NASCAR safety works at HowStuffWorks.
posted by Chutzler at 12:09 PM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


working out at what point they can breathe out and start cheering?

What? Who does that? You have to make as much noise as you can as soon as you can - it persuades the gods to let the men live.
posted by deo rei at 12:18 PM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was struck at how similar to a red light turning green the NASCAR starts appear. I can't imagine something more American.
posted by tommasz at 12:27 PM on November 24, 2012


As to the "mash the peddle and turn left" folks out there, I race circle track both dirt and asphalt. It's about way more than that. If goal was just to out there and make laps then fine, if you start on the pole and hang onto the lead. If not, you have to pass other cars, which is like playing chess at speed, with any mistake potentially costing anything from a position to your car to your life.

I agree with Brockles in that the way cars are built they are safer than ever. Some say too safe and drivers are getting too bold. I know the scenario that scares me the most is a fire. The thought of being entrapped in a race car that's on fire is literally the stuff of night meres. Fire suits and the like will only keep you safe for so long.

Even as an amateur racer I know the wrecks are spectacular and it's what some of the fans come out to see. They are an impressive sight. I guess I look at it this way, deep down most people understand that the drivers are someones son/daughter, wife/husband, or significant other. I have a hard time believing that so many people watch racing to see a driver seriously injured or killed. Quite the opposite, look at what happened when Senna or Ernhart Sr. were killed. I think the the real draw for most fans is to racing this the "anything can happen" factor. It's really what make the sport so interesting. It's literally a sport where talent is absolutely required and guarantees you nothing.
posted by empty vessel at 12:54 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite bits of Talladega Nights, an incredibly underrated, smart, and self-aware film, was when they cut away to an Appleby's commercial, mid rollover crash. A friend who was peripherally involved in the film told me this gag was suggested by the NASCAR consultants on the film, not just as a comment on the fans' crash-lust, but the way the networks (NBC specifically) capitalize financially on it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:41 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


NASCAR sure looks like a bunch of flat-track, low-speed, turn-left, low-skill driving to me, with fairly boring cars.

F1 looks like varied high-speed, twisty-track, high-skill driving with insanely specialized cars. To me.

And then there's Rally. Insanely high-speed fuckin' dirt road with trees and cliffs and snow and OMFG THEY ARE FUCKING INSANE!, with cars that look like something I might drive.

Rally is by far the most impressive, to my eye.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:50 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


"It's just driving in circles" = "my kid could paint that"
posted by desjardins at 3:04 PM on November 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


And you're just mashing keys on that keyboard, innit? A monkey could do that.
posted by daniel_charms at 3:08 PM on November 24, 2012


NASCAR sure looks like a bunch of flat-track, low-speed, turn-left, low-skill driving to me.

People who've driven both say otherwise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:30 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Video: Stereotypical differences between F1 and NASCAR (2:05).
It does a good job of outlining the major contrasts while remaining impartial and respectful of both sports (alternately narrated by an F1 and NASCAR announcer).
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:52 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because it annoys me, it's not "a NASCAR".

Hmm. Well, it is the 'NASCAR Car of Tomorrow', actually. So it really is a NASCAR if you abbreviate that.

I agree with Brockles in that the way cars are built they are safer than ever.

Although NASCARs are shit in that regard, it has to be said. Utter and complete shit, because they insist on using archaic designs and refuse to allow widespread use (well, any use, in fact) of composite materials. It's pretty ridiculous that they let cars do 200mph+ in steel cages. They may be much better than they used to be, but they're still far, far behind the times.
posted by Brockles at 4:21 PM on November 24, 2012


Louis CK is fallible and fuck him and everyone else who thinks crashes are fun. You are motorsport tourists.
posted by basicchannel at 6:59 PM on November 24, 2012


I think it is time now for hugs.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:22 PM on November 24, 2012


I believe the Louis CK quote was originally about farts; the poster just applied that joke to crashes.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:26 PM on November 24, 2012


I read that as an implicit argument that crashes are okay, ones that have an excellent chance of horribly burning, maiming, or killing the contestants, because otherwise the sport would be boring.

I dunno, I don't think that's an argument I'd really want to make, myself, especially not in public. Seems rather Running Man-ish to me. "Die, die for my amusement!"

If the only time the sport is entertaining is when someone's at extreme risk of severe injury, then maybe it's just not a very good sport, you know?
posted by Malor at 8:28 PM on November 24, 2012


To steal from Louis C.K., you don't have to smart to enjoy wrecks but you have to be stupid not to.

Didn't enjoy a single one of the "wrecks" in this thread. I suppose there are racing fans who watch it for that, like there are people who watch hockey for the fights, or Star Wars for the awful.
posted by juiceCake at 9:34 PM on November 24, 2012


Malor, there's a level of empathy at which wrecks become interesting again. It's like the study of nurses in which the best and the worst were more attached to their patients than the bland ones in the middle.
posted by michaelh at 9:42 PM on November 24, 2012


If you're into the whole crash thing, then Mark Webber and Jenson Button .

Pretty awful crashes. Mark has spent a bit too much time airborne in cars in his career. There have been some deaths in the lower open wheel formula of late (Surtees comes immediately to mind) but F1 has been lucky to not have a fatality after Ratzenberger and Senna in 1994.

There have been some rather horrific crashes of course, and we are fortunate that they didn't end as they could have. Caffi's crash was horrible. Andretti's couldn't go through a race it seemed without colliding with someone. His Brazilian crash in particular was awful (though Murray's numerous mistakes in commentary are, as ever, amusing). Kubica's Montreal crash made my stomach turn (crowd reaction). Hakkinen's Adelaide crash was a close one and particularly not something to enjoy since he only survived with an emergency cricothyroidotomy.

Crashes or "wrecks" can be spectacular in nature but how they don't produce a feeling of dread, I don't known. Watching racers keep control of the cars at these speeds and through some challenging courses is far more entertaining then seeing them lose control.
posted by juiceCake at 9:56 PM on November 24, 2012


So, the joke is, there are no lights at Talladega, so there is no racing at night, and so...

Ahem.

I used to live behind the mall across the street from the Daytona International Speedway. You could tell it was a race day, because guys in overalls were running through the suspiciously well-stocked Sears tool section looking for a socket or a torque wrench or a saws-all blade set. They'd grab what they want and run out the door without paying, and the tools sales guys would just high-five each other.

I would say "because of the noise", but the airport was behind the racetrack, and landing approaches were 30' above my condo daily.

Fifty cars turning left never really appealed. I loved bike week, tho, with the motorcycle races. In addition to the oval, they needed to navigate a maze laid out on the infield. It was amazing watching them rocket through the racecourse, and then engage the hyperdrive for the long straights. The superbikes were my secret favorite, tho the 500 and 250GP races were preferred by the connoisseurs. I'd much rather see a race of bikes I could (theoretically) drive home than racetrack queens backfiring at each other.

Then, later in the week, came the flat track races, and that is another whole level of motorcycle love...
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:11 PM on November 24, 2012


I got into racing through F1, and so like many F1 fans, I was put off by what looked like a low-rent, low-skilled version of racing. (Push the pedal down and turn left, as has been mentioned a few times above), then for some reason during a particular boring F1 season with no passing and no real mystery about who was going to win, I started watching some more NASCAR races. If nothing else, it seemed like just about anyone could win. After a while, I started to realize just how on the edge these cars are. They don't have near the downforce of an open wheel car, and to get around the track fast, the driver and crew chief have to find that perfect balance where the car is almost spinning out. Imagine how it feels when you take that off-ramp just a little too fast and your car is on the verge of breaking loose when you catch it... now imagine feeling that way for 3 hours. As for mashing the gas and turning left, there are very few tracks that are wide open all the way around. Working the throttle correctly is hugely important. And yes, you turn left, but how much should you turn left? And where should you start your turn? Frankly, it's a miracle any of these cars stay on the track, and these drivers are amazingly skilled at this particular kind of driving. I really think if you talk to F1 drivers, very few will denigrate the skills of their NASCAR counterparts. Juan Pablo Montoya was pretty successful in F1 and after several years now, is still struggling to win on an oval in NASCAR. And he's hardly the only the open wheel champion to struggle in stock cars.

I like all kinds of racing and I'm amazed the skill of all the drivers. I kind of wish we didn't have to spend so much time trying to compare the talent of all these different kinds of racers. NASCAR drivers are amazing at driving stock cars on ovals. F1 drivers are amazing at driving F1 cars on road courses. Rally drivers are amazing at driving rally cars on rally stages.

Last note - as a spectator, I think it's like any other sport. If you watch it a lot you see more than a casual viewer, and if you have someone to root for, it's way easier to care. I've been to a ton of races, and been completely engaged from the drop of the green flag to the checker. (not always, but usually). I can see how my driver's car is handling compared to the other cars, and how his/her strategy is playing out. I can be on the edge of my seat for 20 laps as one car reels in another and finally passes it.

No one is more surprised by that than I am.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 10:42 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


@Brockles - I agree NASCAR could do allot more however in general racing is safer that it used to be. In F1 those initiatives grew out of loosing Senna. With NASCAR it was loosing Ernhart Sr. Neither sport has had a fatality since. Indy car just had is moment with the loss of Dan Wheldon.

I guess NASCAR has gotten so far from "stock cars" now they might as well turn them into closed wheel F1 cars. The steel chassis seems anchor them to that past in someway. I would almost hate to see them add the composites it would be last connection. If you work your way up through the various stack care classes you do start with a stock chassis and as you work your way up the more steel tubing come into play until somewhere before modified and late model land you completely loose the uni-body. Part of the NASCAR mystique is that what on the track holds some resemblance to what could be sitting in your driveway. They are pretty close to losing that completely already.


I think the whole "my racing is better" thing is a non-starter. As to the skills of the drivers again a non-starter. One could say F1 cars are built to perform better and are less dependent on the driver than drive a heavy stock car (NASCAR). Personally I think there are unique skills each form of racing.

Having done both road and oval courses this year even at my level I can see the different skills. On a road course there are usually some obvious passing opportunities. Passing on an asphalt oval racing is like trying to beat some one at tick-tack-toe. You literary have to wait for them to make a mistake or find some way to be just slightly better they are. Dirt oval everything is dynamic the track can change from lap to lap and it combine that same dynamic in order to get around someone.

As far as rally car goes it seems like a a blast but I don't think I could ever jump into a race car with so many opportunities for a mistake to take out one or more spectators.

Personally I enjoy watching it all because once you grasp what it takes to prepare for a race as well what it takes to perform at top echelon of racing you can't help but be amazed. Behind the wheel of every top tier race car sits a highly intelligent(from a technical and engineering standpoint at least) professional athlete with exceptional focus, stamina and reflexes. I don't really get golf, but I'm impressed with what it takes to be good at it.

Having really started racing this year I know one thing for sure it's hell of allot harder than it looks!
posted by empty vessel at 12:10 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and one more thing!

"Just leave me alone, I know what I'm doing"
posted by empty vessel at 12:17 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In light of today's race, it's actually:
"Just leave me alone, I know what I'm doing where I'm going"

posted by ceribus peribus at 12:46 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the NASCAR mystique is that what on the track holds some resemblance to what could be sitting in your driveway.

No it doesn't. Not even close. It is precisely nothing at all like what could be on your driveway. Even the engines are not even close. It's a total fantasy that they rely on and they are almost as far removed (in the backwards direction in terms of development) as an F1 car is (in the forwards direction. A Nascar isn't even relevant to a 1960's car on your driveway.

One could say F1 cars are built to perform better and are less dependent on the driver than drive a heavy stock car (NASCAR).

'One' would be completely and totally wrong in saying that, though. By several orders of magnitude. I don't think NASCAR drivers are without skill, but to suggest that the skill required is higher in NASCAR is laughable. It's a specific skill, not a harder or wider ranging one.

F1 those initiatives grew out of loosing Senna

Not at all. It grew out of Jackie Stewart and his peers in the 1970's after much yelling and deaf ears in the 1960's. There was a slight resurgence in its development and importance after Senna, but it it did not start there by any means.
posted by Brockles at 5:07 PM on November 25, 2012


They put Clarkson from Top Gear in an F1 car, and he was barely able to drive it. They first put him in a little half-size trainer car, and he spent hours getting the approximate idea, and only then shifted up to a real one.

They were quite afraid he would destroy it through driving ineptitude. Not by crashing, by using it wrong and blowing the engine. I got the impression it was more like flying a helicopter than driving a car -- if you got anything wrong, you would probably blow up a machine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and could easily die. Not exactly your father's Volvo.

Are NASCAR vehicles that hard to drive?
posted by Malor at 8:53 PM on November 25, 2012


I started following NASCAR seriously this year. I'm not a big fan of wrecks, but the shuffling of the field that can happen with a big one is entertaining.

Though, I admit would be lying if I said that exploding jet dryer wasn't one of the main things that got me hooked after I randomly tuned in. Just so ridiculous.

I'm not enough of a fan to get the technical details of the cars and the racing that I think attract people more to F1, the personality and color of NASCAR is what sold me. Wrecks may be no good, but near riots sure are fun.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:08 PM on November 25, 2012


Top Gear's Richard Hammond drives an F1 car, but he has to earn it first.

Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton swap cars.
posted by Chutzler at 9:50 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


My bad, apparently the driver swap is two parts. Part two.
posted by Chutzler at 10:10 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


My bad AGAIN. Part 3.
posted by Chutzler at 10:25 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it was a good video, so you scammed three favorites out of me, you bastard.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:18 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are NASCAR vehicles that hard to drive?

No. Not at all. They're not allowed ANY electronics (not even a data logger) so the driver just has to watch his gauges and press the radio button above the usual three pedals and a stick (he usually leaves the gears entirely alone once he gets up to speed). Yes, they don't even change gear.

As someone who has driven race cars and high performance cars of good variety and instructs on race car driving, I know I could get into a NASCAR and be able to drive it with zero instruction. By zero, I mean they could point to it across the pit lane and I could get in it, strap myself in, start it and drive it on to the track entirely by myself. I wouldn't be fast by any means, but I'd get it up and running and probably scare myself pretty quickly. 800hp and dogshit archaic suspension design is a seriously hard core set up for a race car that does 200+mph. But I'd be out there and lapping. I'd be scared of the power to start off with (especially until the tyres were warm) and pretty damn scared of the speed+walls. But I'd be lapping.

I'd need help with getting myself strapped into an F1 car. I wouldn't be able to start it without outside assistance. I'd have no clue where the clutch was, only that I know it is a hand clutch. So I'd probably need help with that and it's almost certain I'd need 5-10 goes just to pull away (ex-F1 drivers have been unable to pull away properly in a current F1 car). Adrian Newey took a few goes to pull away cleanly in the car he designed at a recent trial at Silverstone. I could, quite easily, destroy something just pulling away wrong. There are 20 or more buttons and dials on the steering wheel. I have no clue what any of them do beyond vague, hazy notions. Race cars of good ability tend to tell you nothing in the way of feedback if you are not loading them correctly, hence if you are a long way off the pace the car will tell you NOTHING, but still be violently fast and change direction as fast as you can move your limbs (and faster). I'd be terrified of it.

Also, the big thing is trying to keep heat in the tyres - no load = no heat. No heat = no grip. At the Brazilian GP, the pace car (the same 500+Hp SLR Mercedes as above) was hammering as fast as it can go on the damp track, driven by an professional race car driver. The average person would be pretty excited and possibly a bit scared sitting in that car at that speed. Yet the drivers in the F1 cars behind were throwing their cars side to side all over the track as hard as they could and complaining on the radio that the pace car wasn't even going fast enough to keep the heat in the tyres. So one of the fastest production cars in the world at full tilt isn't even fast enough to allow an F1 tyre to work its tyres at all even when it is being abused (ie not even being driven properly).

The best analogy I can think of is consider a NASCAR as one of those Reno Air races modified and tuned-to-death P51 Mustang WW2 fighters. Consider the F1 car as the F22 Raptor. That has been fitted with some space shuttle parts (even military planes are behind the kind of development curve the F! teams run with in terms of time from concept to usage).
posted by Brockles at 6:10 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


As someone who was drawn into oval-track racing through video games, let me chime in. The various motorsports all have their own skill sets and have their own idiosyncrasies that make them challenging in their own way. I got drawn into to road racing and rallycross through games like Gran Turismo and Colin McRae, and I'd always considered those types of driving to be more technical and enjoyable. Then a friend of mine got me a copy of Papyrus's Nascar 2000/2003 and my mind was changed. It's actually pretty damned exciting and unnerving for just driving around in circles. The car is driven mostly with the throttle, and it's a challenge to maintain the 7-12 degree slip angle on the tires where they have most of their friction without losing control and spinning out of the turns or going in too deep and crashing into the wall. Then you've got to worry about the other cars on track. And that's just the short game, over the long run you've got to manage tire temperature and wear, and communicate to your crew chief how the car is handling so that they can make adjustments to tire pressures and such to dial in the car and deal with changing track conditions.

As XKCD has said, all human hobbies are fractal, so within oval track racing you've got short tracks where a lot of the home-grown racing gets done, like Langley here were I'm from and South Boston. Then you've got bigger tracks like Atlanta, Charlotte, Michigan, and finally the superspeedways like Daytona and Talledega. You've got to prove your mettle at one before moving up the ladder. Each style of track requires a different way of driving, and setups to be effective. And I'm not even getting into dirt tracks. Most of the kids these days get their starts at short tracks like Langley in carts, before moving up to the 5/4 scale Legends cars (which looks like the ZZ Top car) and then onto Street Stocks and Late Model &c. Hell, even NASCAR has several rungs to get to the top: K&N series, Trucks, Nationwide, and then Sprint, each rung has more horses, and more money. And sadly, yes, ultimately the driver is the least important equation in a team's success, as money plays the biggest factor, especially at the local level. To be fair though, I've heard the same complaint leveled by F1 fans this season WRT certain talented drivers not having a chance at a win because of the superiority of certain cars like Red Bull's, but that's racing I supposed.

But even in the egalitarian world of simulators where everyone is racing identical digital cars with fixed setups, there's a world of difference between the competitors and the backmarkers. Sure, I could put someone in a virtual NASCAR Cup car on Iowa and they could be 'lapping' after a few minutes, but to say so diminishes the challenge of trying to keep up with someone like Ray Alfalla, who just won over $10,000 in this season's iRacing Championship. Hell, I've been driving on there for almost two years now and I find it hard to pull laptimes within half a second or more sometimes of some of these guys. I do like road racing better, but I don't belittle other drivers, cause it ain't easy. It may not seem like much when you're losing 3 or 4 tenths of a second per lap, but over a 40 or 120 lap race, that's the difference between lapping and getting lapped.

('Cept drag racers...I just don't get that in the slightest. A 1/4-mile drag aint a race to me.)

That being said, again, I love road racing more. The tracks are more interesting to drive, and more beautiful scenery wise, and there's nothing on earth like the multi-class, multi-make driving you'll find in series like the American Le Mans. And what Brockles said about the technology in an F1 car is right. Stock cars will usually allow the driver to adjust brake bias while in the car and the team can adjust tire pressures and the right rear roll bar during pits, but that's nothing compared to what F1 driver got: brake bias, engine braking, engine power mappings, throttle shaping, and three different differential mappings, and that's just on the steering wheel alone!

I think that NASCAR is trying to maintain its roots, when they really were stock cars run by regular Joes on the weekend on a dirt track. I'm not really sure that they'll be able to keep this up for much longer with the way electric cars are moving, but we'll see. F1 seems to be more like international corporations engaged in an all out technological arms race.

And the best analogy I can think of is the difference between the American style pigskin game and soccer: They're both called football, but the rules are completely different.
posted by daHIFI at 7:22 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the NASCAR mystique is that what on the track holds some resemblance to what could be sitting in your driveway.

No it doesn't. Not even close.


Hence the words mystique and resemblance. It may not be true, but people do think that.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A typical modern F1 steering wheel, and a look at the history (apparently quite expensive as well, in 5 figures).
posted by juiceCake at 9:18 AM on November 26, 2012


@Brockles - My statements about NASCAR vs. F! were rhetorical. My point was the skills were differnt and the argument was a not starter.

I know a modern stock car has no reslemblance to a street car other than saying "Fusion" or "Impala" on the front. (See juiceCake's comment)

As to the rest, I will yeild to your experience and knowledge. (For which I have a ton of respect)
posted by empty vessel at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2012


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