The NASCAR community reacted quickly to the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest last Sunday, particularly in Joplin, Mo., and Reading, Kan.
Kansas Speedway is offering a chance for fans to drive laps around the 1.5-mile raceway for a donation to the American Red Cross.
The track has two dates scheduled for the fund raiser. Fans can drive under the lights for $50 on June 19 or during the afternoon for $25 on June 24.
“In times of crisis, it’s important for everyone to come together and help those in need,” said track president Patrick Warren. “We have several ticket holders in each of these devastated areas and we wanted to make sure they know that they, along with the rest of their communities, are not forgotten during times like this. I challenge others in our community, both race fans and non-race fans, to join us in our efforts to provide support to these areas.”
Fans can make their donation during next week’s NASCAR doubleheader involving the Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup series. They will receive vouchers that will allow them to drive their cars on the track.
All cars must be street legal and equipped with seatbelts. Campers, tractor trailers and motorcycles aren’t permitted.
The tornadoes in Joplin killed more than 116 people, and it’s the hometown of 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray.
“My heart goes out to all the people that have been affected by the devastating Mo. tornado on May 22nd, especially in my hometown of Joplin,” he said. “It is difficult to put into words, the emotions I have when I see the devastation and destruction that was caused by this storm. My thoughts and prayers are extended to all the people who are dealing with so much loss. I would also like to thank all those that have reached out to me to express their concerns for my family. Although I don’t personally have any family in Joplin any longer, there are still many people there that need our support and prayers.”
Pit road accidents, concerns on the rise
Although the number of pit road accidents has increased this year, but nobody is sure how NASCAR should handle it.
A crewman for Kevin Harvick Inc. was struck in the leg by a car part during a final-lap crash two weeks ago at Dover. It was one of several accidents involving crewmen this year.
“It was a complete accident; it was a scary situation,” Clint Bowyer said. “I had a guy after Talladega – I truly didn’t know I hit this guy – and he came up and he was madder than (heck). I was like, ‘I’m sorry.’ He was a big jack guy and I thought he was going to beat me up. I was like, ‘All I’ve got is a sorry.’ I truly didn’t even know that I even hit him. I guess I slid out and my left rear actually hit his heel and ran over his heel. That’s how close it is on pit road in some of these race tracks.”
NASCAR reduced the number of over-the-wall crewmen from seven to six by eliminating the catch-can man. Fueling cans now have the ability to add gasoline to the cars while catching the overflow. Having one less person over the wall is 43 fewer people during a full caution flag pit stop.
“I think that was always a bad situation, a potential situation that we don’t need in this sport,” Bowyer said. “That can put that guy in big time trouble.”
Jeff Gordon supports penalties for drivers who hit crewmen.
“That’s safety issues so I think absolutely,” he said. “There’s got to be a penalty or a reaction to an action. If something happens, sometimes maybe NASCAR doesn’t penalize you, but if you do something wrong, you usually pay a penalty anyways.
“When there’s a safety issue involved, I feel like there are times when they have to step in. I don’t know the instances that you’re talking about so it’s hard for me to comment on them.”