BLOOMINGDALE, TN :: Several tracks have implemented rule changes pertaining to drivers getting out of their car after an accident in the wake of the tragedy at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. While several tracks have changed rules, the question has surfaced as to whether the rule changes are a knee-jerk reaction.
Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who is a racing veteran who has competed in NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA, currently serves as a broadcaster for NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). On Tuesday’s “NASCAR America”, Dallenbach said he felt the rule changes seemed kind of like a knee-jerk reaction. He elaborated on that thought during an interview with RACE22.com.
“Obviously, what happened is the worst thing in the world that could happen but, to me, as an ex-driver and someone who follows the sport, I feel, drivers have to take responsibility for their own actions inside and outside the racecar,” Dallenbach said. “I guess what I would not like to see is the emotion taken out from the sport. If you look at the previews of the Bristol race, they’ll run people shaking their fists and emotions and that part of the sport fans love. If they have a rule that you have to stay in the car, you’ll lose that entertainment and emotion value of it. At one of my daughter’s races, I saw a guy jump on a guy’s hood and fall and break his arm. I think it’s a point where people need to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.”
Dallenbach stressed the point about the drivers needing to take responsibility for their actions while stating that he, himself, has been in positions where he’s been angry.
“I’ve told my kids, if you get in a confrontation or something, give yourself 30 or 60 seconds to cool off before you get out and do something that you’ll be sorry for like throwing your helmet or gloves and going after somebody,” Dallenbach stated. “I know how hard it is, I’ve lost my mind inside a helmet myself. I think these kids today might try to emulate these superstars of the sport and what they see on TV. I, as a parent, have to say there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. I know you’re pissed, I’ve been there. You just don’t want to have regrets later by not thinking about what you’re doing.”
Karen Phillips Tunnell is the General Manager at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Virginia. Those two tracks are among the list of those which have written rules about drivers saying in their cars until safety crews arrive on the scene of the accident. When asked about Dallenbach’s comments, Tunnell said that fans would rather see good, hard racing than see angry drivers.
“Of course, fans love to see the anger and that stuff but, in light of what has happened this weekend, driver safety has to come first and I’m sure the fans would rather see the driver safe than see them getting killed,” Tunnell said. “There are other ways to bring the fans to their feet. I’m sure you’ll agree, I’d rather see side-by-side racing than someone throwing a helmet or something. I’d rather see hard racing.”
When asked if it was a knee-jerk reaction to a one-time incident, Tunnell compared the response to NASCAR’s response to Dale Earnhardt’s death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
“You take the Dale Earnhardt incident; we have SAFER barriers and that sort of thing now. It always takes a tragedy to realize what can happen. When a tragedy happens, it may never happen again but it is stuff you can’t predict but we have to have safety measures to keep it from happening.”
Tunnell clarified that, following an accident, she does want the drivers to pull their window nets down to let safety crews know they are okay. Kingsport and Lonesome Pine’s new rules will go in to effect this weekend. Kingsport will run twin Late Model races on Friday night while Lonesome Pine will run twin Late Model races on Saturday night.
Wally Dallenbach, Jr. can be seen on NASCAR America, which airs weeknights at 5pm EST on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) as well as on NBCSN’s Verizon IndyCar Series coverage. His daughter, Kate Dallenbach, races Late Model Stock Cars at Anderson Motor Speedway and Hickory Motor Speedway for Lee Faulk Racing as well as in Dirt Late Models for Richard Childress Racing.