It wasn't your fault. It might not have been anyone's fault. It might have been one of those mythical "racing deals," but there's little consolation when you're looking at a torn-up race car. The longest journey to a pit area is one on the back of a wrecker.
Accidents happen. They're part of the sport and everyone is going to face them at one time or another. The key to success lies in how a racer deals with them.
An accident is a moment in time with little preparation. No one wants to tear up a race car-his own or someone else's. If he does, he has a need to find another hobby.
Can We Fix It?
When an accident occurs early in a race, this is the first thought that goes through a driver's mind. Of course, the owner is seeing dollar signs in a lot of cases, but he's also thinking about getting the car back on track to make as much money (or gain as many points toward a championship) as possible. There are plenty of variables to consider in this case:
1. How many laps are remaining?
2. How bad is the damage?
3. Will the car be safe to race?For many, the third consideration should be the most important one, but that's not always the way it goes. It's the most important one for the track promoter or the series officials.
This crew is working hard to make the repairs and get the car into competition. Points are
"If a car wants to come back into a race after an accident, one of our tech inspectors will look it over," says Rick Day, race director of the Stacker 2 Xtreme DirtCar Series. "We look at the driver protection area and make sure the driver is protected. We also have to make sure they don't have parts hanging on the car that could fly off and hurt someone. Our number one priority in the series is to make it safe for the fans and the competitors."
Day says the nature of racers will lead them to try to get back into the chase as quickly as possible. Sometimes that means they will blast out of the pits before the tech inspector has a chance to do his job. "If that happens, we'll stop them on the track or we'll send them back in," Day adds. "We can stop them on the frontstretch and look over the car, and if it's not right, they go back to the pits." In a nutshell, it saves wear and tear on everyone if the car is cleared to go before returning.
The procedure used by Xtreme Series is similar to one employed by tracks and series throughout the country, regardless of the type of racing being done. If the car is perceived to be in violation of the rules with respect to safety, someone is going to point it out. It might be the gate guard at the track entrance or the backstretch flagman, but when it comes to safety, they all have equal enforcement powers.
Some series will help the competitors by pulling offending parts before sending cars to the pits. In an effort to reduce the perception of favoritism, many of the more professional sanctions have abandoned the process, allowing the teams to make the call if it's marginal. Officials can always banish the offender to the pit area if the problem is too significant to ignore.
Not as Bad as It Looks
Many drivers hope that officials are savvy enough to realize the intensity of damage at a glance. In some forms, such as dirt Late Models, damage can appear greater than it actually may be. The cars are designed to take some impact without adverse effect on the entire car. When suspension parts are hanging, it gets to be a different issue altogether. Simple body damage, provided no parts are left hanging precariously, is often ignored and not a detriment to further competition. If those parts could interfere with the tires or the steering, it's another matter and one that officials are watching for. If you leave the track on the wrecker, there's a good chance no one expects you to return.