Friday, March 27, 2015

Dale Jr. on NASCAR safety: 'You never can be safe enough'

   NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was asked during his media availability on Friday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to assess the safety initiatives by NASCAR and if he were surprised there were still spots at tracks where there was nothing but concrete.

   Here is his complete response:

    “I think that the changes that were made in the last 10 to 15 years to help safety have been great. We put barriers where we felt like were common places the cars hit. But as we found out over the last couple of years, specifically, we’ll find all the empty spots where there aren’t any barriers. And I think that NASCAR is taking some steps to make it right. The tracks are taking some steps to move it along. You never can be safe enough. You never can do enough to be safe and keep the competitors safe and keep the fans safe. You never can do enough. So you shouldn’t ever stop trying. But unfortunately, it takes an accident like that to wake everybody up and make things happen. I know that NASCAR was very disappointed that there wasn’t a SAFER barrier on the wall at Daytona and that Kyle (Busch) was injured. And it’s real unfortunate to have to go through that whole process to really fire this thing kind of back up and get people moving on it," he said.

    “But, at the same time, I appreciate the things that they’re doing. And I know that the tire stuff is temporary. The tires are better than the concrete wall, but at the same time those tires can be a problem when you get into those. There’s no telling what direction that car is going to go when it hits a tire barrier. It’s better than the wall, for sure, but nothing’s better at this point than a SAFER barrier. So I guess their intent, over time, is to get SAFER barriers where they feel like they need it. And until then, we’ll have these tires in those areas. I’m happy with the things the tracks are doing. You look back at the cockpit of these cars when I first started driving them, and look at the advances we’ve made inside the cars and outside the cars, and when I was racing in 1998 and ’99 and 2000; and when I was racing Late Models without headrests and neck restraints, I never once was worried about anything ever happening to me. You get complacent, I think.

   “You look back at how stripped down safety was inside the cars years ago, and we didn’t worry about it then. And I think over time, you kind of get a little complacent. You do a lot to get better and get safer and then maybe you get complacent and you think you have enough. And there’s just never enough, you know? You just always keep trying. It’s evident, unfortunately, when someone is injured. But we’ve done a ton of stuff over the last several years that we need to be proud of and thankful for and appreciative of. But it’s weird how just looking back over time and I never got into a car worried about my safety. And we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve got headrests wrapped around us, and harnesses and six, seven, nine-point harnesses. We’ve got straps going everywhere. We can hardly be comfortable in the cars with so many damn straps down there. But you’ve just got to keep trying, I guess, is the message that we are all learning. We’ve got to keep trying to improve all the time and never really let it plane out; and always keep trying to improve.”