Thursday, September 6, 2007

NASCAR: Waltrip took his time escaping burning car

I am posting this news story because I almost ripped into NASCAR (or at least the Safety Officials) after seeing the crash. In fact I did at first, just a little in my Ryan Newman race recap.

But before I really started in with another posting about it, I decided to search for it on I found it and watched it. After watching the whole thing again, I decided that I was really off kilt about the whole thing. The first safety official to approach went right to Michael. I can only assume to make sure he was OK. Which is fine. Then the others got out and got extinguishers. The first one to the rear of the car (opposite side) started with his/hers right away.

So after watching it again on YouTube, I really didn't have a problem with it.

This article does a good job of explaining what happened.


NASCAR officials say that Michael Waltrip chose to take his time getting out of his car after a fiery crash at California Speedway last Sunday and denied that the safety worker was moving slowly.

Fans have questioned the safety response after television footage showed the safety crew arrive at the car and approach it without fire extinguishers in hand in what appeared to be a delayed reaction.

NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said that wasn't the case.

"The situation when Michael was - his car was resting and the safety crew was around him, at that time, you know, Michael when the net was down, Michael was all in control," Pemberton said. "And I believe the conversation was just let him slowly unhook his stuff and get out. Because Michael's so big with the old style car, if you - you can't help him, you can only hinder him in getting out. So the safety worker was not moving slowly - he was moving slowly under direction that, you know, Michael said give me some time, and I'll just undo myself and get out."

Pemberton says that fan reaction to the crash came from a lack of information about the process as it was evolving.

"They didn't really know the details going into that part of it," he said. "But Michael was just working at his own pace of getting out of the car."

Pemberton didn't downplay the importance of safety in the sport, especially as it relates to fire in the car. Both Waltrip and Busch Series driver Brad Keselowski were involved in fiery crashes over the weekend at California.

"Fire is always a big concern," Pemberton said. "And that's why moving forward, you know, we've got the new fuel cell bladders that will be mandated across the board for all of our three national series next year. And it's the bladder that's used in the Cup series this year.

"So a lot of the fire that you saw over the weekend, whether it be Michael's or Brad Kozlowski's was not necessarily the fuel cell. There was an oil fire on Michael's, and I believe it was fluid out of the transmission case that got under the headers when Brad hit the wall."

Pemberton pointed out that drivers are helpless if stuck in a fire, something NASCAR is aware of. NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby reiterated that point.
"The control of the fire is what is very important. I mean, fire is always scary," he said. "And there are times when a fire can look much more spectacular than what it ever is.

"We have a lot of pretty stringent rules on firewalls and floorboard materials and the likes to try to help control the fire."

Darby said, as did Waltrip after his crash, that while the exterior of Waltrip's car looked to be engulfed in flames, the cockpit was not.

"The driver's cabin was very clean from flame, except for one small area where the flames crept up through the shifter boot," Darby said. "And I think that's what gave Michael the ability to keep his composure and stay under control, and ultimately asking the rescue workers to step back to allow him the time and the room to get out of the car."

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