At its best, NASCAR is downright exciting.
At its worst, it is absolutely terrifying.
Unfortunately, often both come from the same incident – a big wreck. Hence, the ultimate Catch-22 for fans of auto racing’s top brand.
That dilemma reared its ugly head Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, where a fiery wreck that started with Joey Logano and Danica Patrick a split second later involved Aric Almirola, whose car went airborne and nearly flipped, leaving him with a fractured vertebra in his back.
Almirola was released from the hospital Sunday, but there has been no talk of just how long he’ll be out.
“That was scary,” Clint Bowyer told The Associated Press. “You hate to see anybody that you race against and know, know their kids and everything else, get cut out like that. It’s scary for everybody.”
Feel bad. What makes this injury even worse is he will feel ready to return to racing before his body will allow him to.
Denny Hamlin’s tweet
I admit I’m not the avid NASCAR fan that I was as a kid. Heck, I didn’t even tune in to Saturday night’s race and am no fan of the new “stage” format. However, I do understand the seriousness of the risk these guys – and gal – face when racing at NASCAR’s top level.
While this incident thankfully wasn’t fatal, I will never forget the day Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a wreck at Daytona International Speedway in 2001. I remember watching as his famed No. 3 car crashed head on into the wall and thinking “He’ll be fine. I’ve seen a ton of wrecks that looked worse than that.”
I wasn’t even a fan of the guy. However, when the news came in that he had died in that wreck, I remember sitting there in silence as if a family member had passed.
It was a sobering moment. While I did not root for him, I knew from that point on something would be missing from the sport; racing wouldn’t be the same anymore.
There have been a number of NASCAR fatalities over the years. Thankfully, though, safety improvements have helped to prevent such occurrences.
Nonetheless, the risk is real.
In recent years, we’ve seen some of NASCAR’s best hang it up. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, both 45 years old, have recently retired, and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., 42, announced he will retire after this season.
Earnhardt Jr. has suffered several concussions and concussion-like symptoms caused him to miss the second half of the 2016 season. While health concerns may not have been his only reason to soon hand over his keys, Junior did say that he “wanted the opportunity to go out on my own terms,” an option his father didn’t live to have.
In all sports there’s risk involved, there’s no doubt about that. But driving a car upwards of 200 mph can easily be seen as a recipe for disaster.
“While I’m OK, one of these times, one of these really big accidents, someone is not going to be OK,” Patrick, who escaped her burned-up car without any injuries, told The Associated Press. “Aric is not OK and his car looked the best of everybody. You never know when it is going to be the wrong hit.”
However, like those of us who get a thrill out of watching – yes, the fiery wrecks are a spectacle – the drivers get their adrenaline rush from the same dare-devil sport.
They know what they’re getting themselves into and they accept the risk that comes with it.
Unfortunately, though, those who don’t care for NASCAR often label it as a boring sport where all you’ve got to do is turn left. Yet, those same folks often are the ones who tune in to watch “The Big Wreck” on SportsCenter.
Some folks simply don’t understand NASCAR and all that goes into it.
While I don’t tune in every week like I once did, one thing is for sure: my respect for the drivers has never waned.
Get well soon, Mr. Almirola.
The Coastal Carolina baseball team plays at Clemson at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday before hosting Appalachian State for a regular-season finale three-game series Thursday (2 p.m.), Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.). … The South Carolina baseball team hosts USC Upstate at 7 p.m. Tuesday before hosting Georgia for a regular-season finale three-game series Thursday (7 p.m.), Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.). … The Clemson baseball team hosts Coastal Carolina at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday before playing at N.C. State in a regular-season finale three-game series Thursday (6 p.m.), Friday (6:30 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.). … The Myrtle Beach Pelicans hosts Buies Creek for a four-game series Monday through Thursday, with all games starting at 7:05 p.m. They then hit the road Friday for a four-game series at the Salem Red Sox. … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at 8 p.m. Saturday. … The PGA Tour heads to Irving, Texas, for the AT&T Byron Nelson from Thursday through Sunday. … In tennis, the men and women compete in the ATP & WTA Internazionali BNL d’Italia beginning Monday. … The NBA conference finals continue this week. … The NHL conference finals continue this week.