Talladega Superspeedway management did a magnificent job upgrading the track's worn surface a couple of years ago when the historic Alabama track received a fresh coat of asphalt.
Now it's time to really give the place a facelift.
|Wrecks like this are destined in Talladega's future without changes. (US Presswire)|
Because tearing down the banking and reconfiguring the 2.66-mile speedway is the only way to stop the madness that has reached frightening proportions.
Sunday's Aaron's 499 was the latest example of how risky racing at Talladega has become and that the intent of using restrictor plates in the name of safety has actually made the sport more dangerous.
Yes, the horsepower-choking plates slow the cars down so speeds of 225 or 230 mph aren't produced.
But the end result, although at times breathtaking and as intense as any kind of auto racing on the planet, is just a tragedy waiting to happen.
Only by the grace of God did Carl Edwards' airborne car not fly into the front stretch grandstands, which were packed with thousands of people.
Miraculously after flying hundreds of feet in the air and landing with a deafening thud on the infield apron, Edwards jumped from his battered car and raced -- on foot -- across the start-finish line.
"It was just a little bit scary because I saw the ground and then I couldn't tell exactly which part of the car I hit the wall with and I was real worried I hit the roll cage and I had to wait a minute to make sure that there wasn't something stuck in me somewhere or something," Edwards recalled of his death-defying act. "That's a little nerve-racking to hit the wall with something other than the side of the race car. That's the first time I've flipped in a racecar. That's it, so we got that out of the way."
While it may have been Edwards' first flip inside a car, with the popular driver better known for his trademark back flip off the car after a victory, it's not the first time someone has been upside down at Talladega.
"The one thing that stands out in my mind is two days in a row, like I've said, we've seen a car turned around and get upside down," said Ryan Newman, who unfortunately was driving the car that hit Edwards and launched him into the air even further. "We need to go back, not to the drawing board, develop roof flats or something to keep the cars on the ground; that's one thing not just for the drivers, but for the fans, as well. That's one thing that stands out."
But it's not just devising a better system to keep the cars from going into the air.
The entire package of restrictor plates, bump drafting and yellow out-of-bounds lines has frustrated nearly every driver in the garage area.
"I don't know," said veteran Mark Martin, shaking his head after being knocked out of his first restrictor plate race in more than two years. "I mean, how could that not happen? That's what I say. How could it not happen? It's not that guys are losing control of their cars. It's that there are so many in such a wad that you can't help but move up or down on one another, and it starts a wreck."
Martin wasn't alone in his frustration Sunday.
"Man, racing here just sucks," said Jimmie Johnson, caught up in the day's second multi-car pile-up, a 10-car melee that followed the 14-car opening act on the seventh lap.
Let's be honest, part of auto racing's appeal is the death-defying nature of the sport itself. Watching drivers hurtle around high-banked tracks like Talladega at lightning-fast speeds is no doubt an element of NASCAR's popularity.
"There has to be some element of danger to it," said race winner Brad Keselowski. "It's no different than football."
But there has to be limits and the current formula used at Talladega and its sister track Daytona crosses the line.
"NASCAR just puts us in this box," Edwards said. "Brad did a great job. Congrats to him on the win, but they put us in this box and we'll race like this until we kill somebody and then they'll change it ..."
The only way to change it is to redesign the racetrack.
Lower the banking and speeds will be reduced. Implement progressive banking like what was used in the redesign of Homestead-Miami Speedway and there will be side-by-side and multiple groove racing in a much less dangerous environment.
Forget the economy, lagging ticket sales or sponsorships ending.
The biggest problem facing the sport is to figure out a way to keep drivers and fans safe at the longest oval track on the schedule.
The current plan does not work.