FOX NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds reacts to Dillon's wild wreck
Following NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon's accident Sunday night at Daytona International Speedway that sent his No. 3 Chevrolet airborne, FOX NASCAR analyst and former crew chief Larry McReynolds shared his thoughts on the accident and safety in restrictor-plate races:
MCREYNOLDS ON HIS INITIAL REACTION WHILE WATCHING THE ACCIDENT UNFOLD:
"Every bit of that accident scared me, from the way the car got up in the air to how quickly the fence stopped it when the car was probably running 190 mph or more coming out of the tri-oval, and then hitting the fence at a dead stop a short distance later. But what frightened me the most was when Brad Keselowski hit the No. 3 car because Austin was sitting on the track at a dead stop and got slammed."
MCREYNOLDS ON WHETHER ACCIDENTS LIKE DILLON'S, WITH CARS AIRBORNE, ARE AVOIDABLE AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS:
"When cars are running that fast and in that big of a pack, it's inevitable a car will go airborne at times. I speak not just as someone who has worked in the sport for decades but also as a father whose son has raced at Daytona and Talladega. As much as we want to get there, we won't ever make these races 100-percent risk-free. How can you eliminate risk when a pack of cars is running more than 190 miles-per-hour? You probably can't. But if you do, I'm afraid you will lose some of the attraction that brings fans to the track or to their TV during these races. People watch bull riding because it's dangerous. They watch extremely motorcycle events because they're dangerous. We do everything we can to make racing risk-free, but we can't. If we could, I'm not so sure we'd have a very good product on the track. I mean that with all sensitivity and respect but also with practicality."
MCREYNOLDS ON WHETHER NASCAR SHOULD SLOW DOWN THE CARS AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS TO ATTEMPT TO AVOID SIMILAR ACCIDENTS:
"If you slowed them down 10 mph, does it change what happened? I doubt it when cars are eight or more rows deep and on top of each other, unless you slow the cars down so dramatically that you lose part of the attraction for the fans. Not to sound cold or morbid, but NASCAR probably shouldn't overthink this issue. We shouldn't go nuts and change a bunch of things to attempt to fix what may be unfixable. Then you hurt the product on the track, and we don't need to do that. We have six really good races a year right now -- the four restrictor-plate races and two road-course races. We don't need to hurt those six races but rather should work on improving the excitement of the other 30."
MCREYNOLDS ON WHETHER SAFETY MEASURES, FROM THE CATCHFENCE TO THE CAR, DID THEIR JOBS:
"We need to salute NASCAR for their diligence in continuing to improve safety. We beat them up early in the season about SAFER barriers, but what they've mandated with the race cars helped Austin walk away from the accident. The car did its job for him. As much as we, and I in particular, came down hard on Daytona International Speedway about SAFER barriers in February after Kyle Busch's crash, the catchfence did its job because the track has stepped up its game since Kyle Larson's crash there in 2013. The good thing is the track won't just repair the fence and move on to the next race. They will evaluate the accident with NASCAR and other tracks to determine whether anything further can be done to the fence to improve fan and driver safety. NASCAR has the No. 3 car at the R&D Center, and they'll also figure out if more can be done to improve the safety of the race car for the drivers. RCR will do the same thing. No one will rest on their laurels after this accident, but I'm afraid they won't be able to find a lot of areas they can adjust to change the end result."
MCREYNOLDS ON WHETHER TRACKS SHOULD REFRAIN FROM SELLING TICKETS AT THE LOWER LEVEL NEAR THE START/FINISH LINE:
"That's probably something that should be evaluated, especially at high-speed tracks like Daytona and Talladega. A bit of a buffer zone between the catchfence and seats would be a good thing -- not just in the tri-oval area but down the entire length of the grandstands. Look back at what happened with Kyle Larson's accident in the XFINITY Series in 2013."
MCREYNOLDS ON WHETHER ACCIDENTS LIKE DILLON'S ARE JUST PART OF THE INHERENT RISKS DRIVERS ACCEPT:
"Every driver in every series accepts an inherent risk. The faster they go and the bigger the packs, the greater the risk. And as much as their loved ones don't like it, they have to accept it also. It goes with the territory, just like in football. In any high-risk sport you want to be good in, you must accept that risk."
MCREYNOLDS ON THE RACE AS A WHOLE:
"I truly enjoyed that race. I certainly didn't enjoy what happened on the last lap -- I hated it. But that was a whale of a race that kept me entertained the entire time. Why else would I have stayed up until after 3 a.m. watching?"