There’s a certain allure to trackside seating at a superspeedway. You’re right there. Bones and teeth rattle every time a car comes careening in front of you, so close you could almost touch it. Sure, you might not be seeing the whole view of the circuit, but for the first time you truly get to see the speed—blink, and you’ll miss the three cars battling for the lead.
But it’s time to start asking if that’s, y’know, actually a good thing, no matter how much fans enjoy it.
Listen, we know it’s cool. I know it’s cool. Every time I’m at Pocono, I like to spend at least one session with my nose pressed up against the catch fencing, watching a smear of livery pass by just under my fingertips. But I also know that I’m getting out of there as soon as the race starts.
It scares the hell out of me seeing people down there. And in a series like NASCAR, where we’re always on the lookout for The Big One, where fans so close to the track are in the danger zone even despite the catch fencing, it seems unnecessarily dangerous to even have seats so close to the track that people might walk away injured.
Listen—racing is dangerous. I know that. You know that. Any human being who understands what “large pieces of machinery going at impossible speeds while people watch five feet away” means knows that.
But superspeedways have the space to, y’know, spread things out a little bit. I understand that a smaller oval is going to have a hard time. If you’re trying to cram tens of thousands of fans around a half-mile track, you’re going to squish fans into seats like sardines. But on a superspeedway, there’s really not an excuse. You’ve got two miles of track. Spread out, not down.
Just because someone knows that it’s more dangerous to sit next to the track and then chooses to sit there anyway doesn’t really mean, y’know, the option should still be there. You give anyone a couple of beers and anything sounds like a good idea. I had a drink at Watkins Glen and climbed the roof of a concession stand. We are human. We’re gonna do that dumb shit anyway. Someone should have looked me in the face as I tried to jump onto a corrugated iron roof and said, “you fool, you’re going to get tetanus and also this is just dumb”. Sometimes it’s necessary for The Powers That Be to step in and say “uhhhh, this is bad news and we can do something about it”.
I, personally, just do not understand. It seems like an unnecessary liability for the tracks. It’s the kind of ignorance to detail and safety standards that gets fans hurt—or worse—and harms the public perception of motorsport. Yeah, we have catch fencing, but we also have the mystery of what really happened to Tony Renna, and we have debris injuries from wrecks like Austin Dillon’s at Daytona. It seems like prevention might just be the best method here to keep a Le Mans ‘55-style tragedy from occurring in the modern era.
That’s why I want to open the question up to my fellow Jalops. Let’s discuss. Give me your two cents on this, pitch some alternatives. If you’ve got those fancy stats and insider details, lay ‘em on me. Help me understand why this phenomenon still exists in this year of our Lord 2018.