While I was watching Around the Horn on ESPN, the bottom line ticker read this headline
"Dario Franchitti, 40, retires from auto racing"
Honestly, I'm saddened by this news. I remember watching Franchitti when he drove in both NASCAR and, more famously, Indycar. Although Franchitti didn't have much success in NASCAR, he was a 3-time Indy 500 champion and a 4-time Indycar champion, including three straight championships from 2009-2011.
For those of you who do not know why Franchitti is retiring so early, it is because of a horrific crash that happened at Reliant Park on October 6th, 2013. Franchitti suffered 2 broken vertebrate, a broken ankle, and a concussion from that injury. After having surgery, his doctors recommended to him that he stopped racing for good to prevent further damage that could have lifelong effects. Fortunately, Franchitti took it to heart.
Unfortunately, we all know the dangers of auto racing. NASCAR has been taking steps for the last decade to make their sport safer. Unfortunately, it took the death of a NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt Sr., in order for NASCAR to actually get the hint that maybe they need to make safety their first priority. F1 hasn't had an on-track fatality since 1994 in San Marino. However, once again that took the death of an F1 legend, Ayrton Senna, in order for F1 to take a safety-first stance.
But when is Indycar going to make those changes? I get it, this is a very different car. This car is much more similar to the likes of F1, where there is no roof over your head while you are racing. But what about the race schedule? Why do they still race in tight-knit street courses and ovals? Over the last 3 seasons, we have seen two great Indycar drivers have to end their careers because of injury. Luckily for Franchitti, he gets to live the rest of his life unlike more unfortunate souls such as Franchitti's former teammate, the late Dan Wheldon.
I want to take a moment and compare the race selection from both Indycar and F1.
2013 Indycar schedule
- 19 Races
- 6 Ovals
- 7 Street Courses
- 6 Road Courses
Compare that to F1's 2013 schedule
- 19 Races
- 0 Ovals
- 4 Street Courses
- 15 Road Courses
To take it even farther than that, the four courses in F1 that are considered Street Courses consist of Montreal, Albert Park, Monaco, and Singapore. Outside of Monaco, the other three circuits have wide open spaces in at least some part of the track. Monaco has been a staple of the F1 race world, with the first race being held in 1929.
This is what Indycar needs to do. First thing they need to do is get rid of ovals. These cars are more lightweight, and can go a higher speeds than NASCAR cars who race 34 of their 36 races on ovals. The average top speed of a NASCAR stock car is around 205 mph. For Indycar, it is 230 mph. I would only leave one oval on Indycar's schedule, and obviously, that would be Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, that oval was built specifically for Indycar, so it's not that bad of an oval track. But think about it. Wheldon's death happened on Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oval), Paul Dana died in 2006 at Homestead-Miami Motor Speedway (Oval). In total of Indycar and its predecessors CART and USAC, there have been 36 fatalities, with 34 of those being on Oval tracks (16 at Indianapolis, maybe it is a bad oval track), 1 on a street course, and 1 on a road course. I get Franchitti's injury happened on a road course, but Reliant Park is the most tight-knit road course I have ever seen. That event should not be on the calendar.
I also do not agree with 6 road courses. I get there hasn't been many deaths on road courses, but they are so tightly-knitted together, that these races are begging for a deadly accident one day. An accident I guarantee we will all see within the next 3 years. I vouch that there needs to be no more than 4 street courses in Indycar Racing.
Unfortunately, nothing will be changed until Indycar puts 2 and 2 together. Indycar will continue to deny that auto racing on ovals is dangerous. As long as Indycar can make a few bucks off of an oval race, then oval races will keep happening. What happened after the last death on an oval track you say? Well, Indycar investigated the death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in 2011, and said that it was the chassis on the car, not the banking of the oval. I call utter bull crap. Their findings should have said that oval courses are not suitable for Indycar racing and that with the exception of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they need to be taken off the calendar. However, it looks like it will take a few more deaths on oval courses for that to ever happen.
P.S. After posting on my blog about the death of Charles Youvella, yet another tragedy struck high school football regarding head injuries. 17-year old Chad Stover, from Tipton, MO, succumbed to his head injuries suffered two weeks ago in a playoff game in Sedalia, MO. This is a little closer to where I am, as Tipton is about 30 miles south of Columbia. Stover actually died in the Columbia hospital. Stover was described as a popular, intelligent person at Tipton High School. Stover is the seventh player this year to die from football at the high school level. Yet another death that will stir the conversation of the safety and future of football once more.