Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Night Showdown Shows Dark Side of Racing

In less than two weeks, the racing world found out just how lucky it is to still have Brad Keselowski at the track, and how NASCAR’s punishment of Carl Edwards may not have fit the crime.

Saturday night Bristol Motor Speedway put on what was supposed to be a terrific event in the “Scotts EZ Seed Showdown” where 12 NASCAR legends competed in a 35-lap event for charity.

Unfortunately, with five laps left in the race, Larry Pearson, two-time Nationwide champion and son of David Pearson, blew a left-rear tire and spun up into the wall in Turn 2. He then slid back down across the track and the #3 car of Charlie Glotzbach, a 12-time Sprint Cup Series winner, slammed hard into his driver-side door. Both drivers were knocked unconscious.

Things were obviously very serious as crew members jumped out from pit road immediately to attend to the crash, and some were jumping in the air for safety workers to come assist. Also, Marty Reid imploring viewers to “think good thoughts” each time ESPN2 went to a commercial break brought back haunting memories of Darrell Waltrip looking on from the booth in tears after his brother won the 2001 Daytona 500 saying repeatedly, “I hope Dale’s OK.”

Glotzbach was able to walk from his car with assistance, but was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. Pearson had to be cut out of his car and was taken to a local hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening. David Pearson then retired from the event to go to the hospital and be with his son.

This was a throwback event in more ways than one. Not only were some of NASCAR’s past generation on display, but so was the frightening reality of what drivers are actually doing on the track. 120 mph is 120 mph no matter where you are and what car you are driving, and it’s incredible Pearson was awake and alert as he was lifted out of the car. Also, this makes the events of two weeks ago at Atlanta look incredibly stupid. Edwards intentionally took Keselowski’s life into his hands by turning him and sending him into the fence.

I said all along that whatever punishment NASCAR decided on, they better hand out that same punishment had Keselowski’s car not gone airborne and simply spun out into the infield, because we saw today that bad and potentially tragic things can happen anytime a car spins out at any track in the country.

After Saturday’s event, NASCAR looks bad because they only put Edwards on probation for three races. I think people have gotten comfortable with the incredible amounts of damage the new Cup car can handle without the driver being hurt. Right now Michael McDowell could be dead, Jeff Gordon could be dead, Brad Keselowski could be dead and several others. No matter what people may complain about with the new car, it was a needed change. Period.

Maybe we thought we had moved past the point where drivers could be seriously injured or killed in a race car. Sorry folks, that is not the case. Watching that white #3 car barrel into Pearson’s #21 car was sickening, as was Keselowski’s wreck two weeks ago at Atlanta. Remember, Edwards intentionally caused that wreck, and could have very easily destroyed the young man in the red #12 car that he sent spinning. I don’t even want to hear the argument that he should have waited until Bristol to wreck him; we saw today that Bristol is no safer than any other track on the circuit.

Maybe Kyle Petty was right in his comments following the wreck at Atlanta.

“If this is our sport and we depend on NASCAR and we want to put on the best show for the fans, we’re in this together," he said. "This is a black eye on the media. This is a black eye on NASCAR. This is a black eye on the competitors. This is a black eye on everybody. I don’t care. This is wrong. This was a blatant, flagrant foul and he ought to be parked. He shouldn’t show up at Bristol and that’s just my opinion. Brad Keselowski said the ball’s in NASCAR’s court. We’re going to see if they’ve got a pair now. I’m just throwing that out there. They need to park him and send him home."

Now Petty also admitted that he had intentionally wrecked someone before, and it has been said that even his dad, the great Richard Petty, intentionally wrecked people at times. However, it is still not right. We are no longer in the Wild West with guns a blazing. Hopefully Edwards learned a lesson by watching what happened at the track Saturday, as well as every other driver in the garage. NASCAR shouldn’t have to be the only group to control safety; they did put things back in the drivers’ hands. The drivers’ hands just need to have a brain attached to them at all times.

Now before you finish reading this article and switch to some other Web site and move on with your day, say a prayer for both the Pearson and Glotzbach families: one of thanks that Larry Pearson and Charlie Glotzbach are still alive, and one of hope that they are able to recover and continue living their lives without any lingering problems from this accident. And remember the next time a driver spins out seemingly harmlessly, that this is one of the most dangerous sports that we play in America.


  1. Great post. That was a terrible wreck! To think I was laughing out loud Friday night watching Trackside as David Pearson & Kyle Busch had a comeback for every idiot question DW would ask! Then David was so upset last night over his son. What was bad, too, is that Junior Johnson on Facebook didn't wait one second to post the YouTube video of the wreck on his page. I thought that was very insensitive.

  2. ATHENS - Yes, every time they have a legend of the sport on Trackside it is a good time. Also, it's one of the few times we get to see those guys anymore.

    Hate that the wreck happened because it was such a fun event otherwise. Looks like Larry Pearson ended up with a compound fracture in his ankle, a broken pelvis and a broken right wrist. Bad stuff indeed, hope he has a full recovery.

  3. Glad that Larry is doing okay. He was always a favorite of mine, and his Dad was my all-time favorite.

    I have to question BMS's judgement in allowing 70-something year olds drive 15 second laps at Bristol. Without HANS devices! Without full face helmets! Without proper fire resistant protection! In cars without the best features and safety advances available.

    I liked watching the legends (and Parsons and Wilson) compete again, but this will be the last time.

  4. Good comparison Mayer - I only caught a few laps of the Legends race and saw the wreck on replay. Definitely one of the worst I have ever seen and have to question the judgment of sending those legends out there with subpar safety equipment and letting them run so fast.

    Wonder if NASCAR thinks their safety improvements are so good they can let them loose again? Hope they arent proven wrong...

  5. Very well-written and deep post. We're lucky that two drivers ending up in the hospital is all that happened. Also, it was good to see Keselowski and Edwards racing cleanly side by side on Sunday...

  6. Gene - Yeah it's too bad old-school racing is unsafe because it was very cool to see Harry Gant in there with the bubble goggles and no gloves.

    klvalus - As fast as they were running they might as well have run Cup cars. Those would have been safer and it would have been cool to see what those guys thought of driving the new car.

    Gonger - Both Edwards and Keselowski did a good job this week. It just so happened those two were running side-by-side with Harvick right behind them for a stretch. What irony. lol

  7. In fairness It was posted on a Junior Johnson fan site created by Chris Pynn.