Posted on January 31, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

Some people, including officials for the sport, think that NASCAR needs energizing. That’s why the organization plans to loosen up some of its rules so that the races become more of “a contact sport” (we guess like football) this year, NASCAR chairman Brian France said recently.

“We’re going to open it up, because we want to see what you want to see,” France said during a Jan. 21 http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=4851656
press conference. “More contact. This is a contact sport. We want to see drivers mixing it up. We want to see the emotion of the world’s best drivers just as much as everybody else does. And that’s the goal in 2010 and beyond.”

Here is a YouTube video of France making the remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7dWRhRnj58

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that these rule changes, meant to increase “contact,” will likely lead to more accidents and injuries, possibly brain trauma.

NASCAR fans and drivers alike have been griping that the sport has become too namby-pamby and watered down, losing much of its excitement, because of restrictive rules on practices such as “bump-drafting.”

Bump-drafting is a controversial practice that some NASCAR veterans have labeled “idotic.” http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-racing/nascar/nascar-basics/stock-car-racing-techniques4.htm

It’s fancy tailgating, where NASCAR drivers nudge the car ahead of them, moving it forward, and their forward along with it. The front car slows down, and that gives the car behind a chance to pass and move ahead, creating some excitement.

But bump-drafting can turn dangerous, because the front driver’s wheels can lose traction and the car can go into a spin. So the practice has led to fatal NASCAR accidents.

NASCAR banned bumping at the Talladega race in November, and drew the ire of diehard race fans.

Despite the past fatalities and accidents, the bump-drafting ban didn’t sit well with fans or some drivers. “There’s an age-old saying that NASCAR, “If you ain’t rubbing, you ain’t racing,” NASCARr president told the Associated Press. http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/news/story?id=4845878

At the January press conference, France basically said NASCAR was lifting its old restrictions and putting racing back in the drivers’ hands. The ban on bumping is being scrapped, in time for the NASCAR season opener, the Daytona 500, which is a restrictor-plate race. Those plates give a racecar more power and speed.

NASCAR officials are hoping the changes will bring back the excitement to racing, while seemingly not being too concerned about the increased chance of injuries of this new “contact sport.”

In his AP interview, Helton maintained that the sport is much safer than it was five or six years ago, with the improvements on the cars and tracks. It remains to be seen this year.

Is it energizing the sport needs, or greater ratings? One of our favorite sports, boxing, it is the goal to cause a concussion/brain damage to your opponent. In football, it is at least a by-product of the best plays. Now we have perhaps our most dangerous sport, car racing, wanting to increase its ratings by making it a contact sport. It may not be the goal to kill the opponent, but it certainly is a foreseeable outcome.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
g@gordonjohnson.com :: 800-992-9447