Published August 20, 2012
Mark Martin's car went sliding off the track at Michigan International Speedway and crashed sideways into a pit road barrier. The vehicle was pierced by the short, narrow end of the wall, but Martin was able to walk away.
It was a fluky accident — exactly the type of thing that scares drivers and racing officials alike.
"When we see things like that, it's just a reminder to us that the work on safety never stops," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition.
Pemberton said Monday that NASCAR is ready to take a look at Martin's scary crash from Sunday's Sprint Cup race. The driver's team will be consulted, and aerial photos will be studied.
MIS track president Roger Curtis says he's ready to follow NASCAR's lead. His track doesn't have another NASCAR race this year, and Curtis says it's important not to rush into changes that might solve one safety issue while creating another.
"We don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction," he said.
The worst of the impact to Martin's car was just in front of the left rear tire, dangerously close to the driver-side door.
The issue that came up Sunday isn't unique to MIS. The end of the pit row barrier is exposed because of a gap in the wall that allows vehicles to enter and exit. That gap is there for race vehicles and safety vehicles, Pemberton said.
"We need to get in and out off of pit road," he said.
Martin knew he was fortunate but was upbeat after the wreck.
"The pit wall hole or opening came so late that I didn't have much time to even think about it," Martin said. "Prior to seeing that opening, my biggest deal was trying to stay off of that inside wall so that I could still have a racecar to challenge and try to win the race. ... It's unfortunate. I fought it with everything I had, but with where I came from and the speed that I came from and the confines of pit road, I couldn't miss it."
It wasn't just Martin who was at risk Sunday.
"When Mark Martin slid down pit road, he ended up halfway into our pit," Kasey Kahne said. "One of our guys got hit a little bit by a tire. His oil tank exploded and stuff. That was really close to a really bad situation, but it turned out all right. We're all lucky, for sure."
Now NASCAR will try to learn from the incident, while being thankful nobody was hurt in the unusual crash.
NOTES: Curtis said he "loved" how things went for MIS this season after the track was re-paved in the offseason. Qualifying speeds surpassed 200 mph for the Sprint Cup race in June, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up snapping his four-year losing streak with a victory that weekend. Sunday's race was won by Greg Biffle after Jimmie Johnson's engine faltered with six laps to go. ... Curtis says he's fine with the fact that his track isn't part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which starts next month. He worries how fans would be affected if school was in session during a race week. "I wouldn't want to make it into a Chase race," he said. "I think it would hurt our camping. We get so many campers."