Columbus Motor Speedway
We arrived at Columbus Motor Speedway and were greeted by the promoter, Jeff Nuckles. I had consulted for several teams who raced here over the past 10 years, but were gone by now. For that reason, I had always wanted to see this track and had heard so much about it. This too is sanctioned by NASCAR under its Whelen All-American Series banner.

It’s one where you must be completely on your game to succeed and that means the car has to be handling very well and stay that way. There is opportunity for faster cars to pass their way to the front if situations find them back in the pack. And I had the opportunity to witness that. This comes from a combination of little or no banking and short to non-existent straightaways.

When we arrived it was raining and looked like it was there to stay. But Jeff never backed off running the show and by 5:00 that evening the skies were breaking and the drops stopped falling. It’s a testament to the management that they stuck it out. The teams had already made the trip to the track and waiting a few more minutes or hours was worth it to try to get the show in.

The facility was typical of an older track, but well run and had features we liked and didn’t like. There was a police presence and we always like that. Lack of security can be a problem sometimes and it only takes one incident to keep fans and teams away forever.

There was an on-track incident where a Late Model driver was turned into the backstretch wall head-on hard. He had to be cut from the car and taken by ambulance to the hospital for observation. He survived with only bruising and a sore neck, but he didn’t have either of his head-and-neck restraints on at the time of the crash.

His son was very upset that Dad had left both at home. Jeff told me later on that the head-and-neck restraints weren’t required, but they were highly recommended. I asked why they couldn’t require them and it had to do with cost to the lower classes. I offered this information that I would like to present to all promoters across the country.

The stock class cars are just that, stock. Detroit and elsewhere, car manufacturers have had to meet crash safety standards for some time now. A stock car will crush and absorb energy in a frontal impact by mandate of the Federal government. So, there is less opportunity for neck injuries in those cars.

An example is NASCAR racing at Daytona in the ’70s and early ’80s. Those cars were, by all accounts, stock production cars and were running upwards of 200 mph. There were plenty of frontal impacts with the walls and we never heard of a death like Earnhardt’s in those days. It wasn’t until the teams started building fabricated front clips that the injuries began to happen.

In contrast to stock division cars, fabricated race cars are purposely built to be stiff to resist torsional twisting to help the setup of the car. It’s that stiffness that gets us into trouble when the car makes contact with the concrete wall. There is less deflection of the chassis during high g-force impacts in those cars.