Sunday's race at the Auto Club Speedway was quite an exciting affair or so I heard. I didn't actually get to watch the race. I was instead listing as I was driving back from covering the Wichita State women in the NCAA tournament.
And I didn't get to hear the end of the race. Believe it or not there is no radio station in the beautiful town of Oklahoma City that carries the race and I lost both the radio signal and 3G service at the same time. Just my luck.
Thankfully, I had enough of a signal to see Twitter. I pulled over to get some gas and feverishly kept hitting that refresh button. I was first captivated by reports of a wreck and a fight. Then frightened by reports of a driver on a stretcher. And then, horrified by the tone of the tweets declaring "NASCAR is back" and tracks lauding the finish and exclaiming "get your tickets now."
I didn't get it. I only had one thought on my mind. How is Denny Hamlin?
I have covered NASCAR for more than 10 years now. It's not my only beat and I don't really know the drivers personally. But I have been around them enough to appreciate that they are real living breathing human beings with families and friends that care about them. They are not some characters on a tv show as we sometimes seem to treat them.
It's been 13 seasons since we lost Dale Earnhardt. And we have become way too relaxed about the danger in this sport. Carl Edwards flies into the stands in Talladega, he walks away. Kyle Larson does the same in Daytona and is not injured. We treat these accidents like they are video games. You wreck the car, you hit reset and you go back on the track.
Denny Hamlin's hit on Sunday was vicious. I have watched the replays. Safety advances saved his life. But he does have a broken back, which proves this was a close call for all drivers. It's time the sport to start asking some tough questions. Why was there no SAFER barrier where Hamlin hit? Why are we celebrating an action by a driver that could have resulted in a drivers death? Does a driver have to die before things change?
Turning a driver at Bristol at 100 mph is different then doing it at Fontana going 200 mph. From the moment Joey Logano admitted he wrecked Hamlin on purpose, he should have be parked for at least one race. Everyone in the sport knows the difference between Bristol and Auto Club Speedway. And we all know when the appropriate time for retaliation is. Boys have at it does not mean drive recklessly in a way that endangers other drivers and fans.
People keep defending Joey saying he didn't know how bad the accident was when he made his comments to FOX. Maybe not, but he knows that turning someone at 200 mph at Fontana is dangerous. And the media members, track promoters and fans gushing about the finish of the race did know. They could all see Hamlin on the stretcher, and then being airlifted out. Maybe that's not the time to be declaring "get your tickets now for the rematch at X track."
Look, I love a good rivalry. I blogged about Logano vs Hamlin last week. It was fun, until someone got hurt.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun