Marco Simoncelli, 24, died Sunday after crashing and being hit by two other riders at the Malaysian MotoGP motorcycle race, another racing death that occurred too soon after last weeks Indy Car race. The last couple of weeks in racing have brought back too many bad memories. The death of Dan Wheldon brought back me back to Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001, which was the culmination of too many other deaths in a short period of time in the motor sports world. At the time, I was a crew member in the ARCA racing series and had just been through the deaths of Scott Baker, Blaise Alexander, and Chad Coleman in that series, as well as John Nemechek, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin Jr., and Tony Roper (who’s father, Dean was also killed less than a year later) from the NASCAR ranks, and Greg Moore from CART. The death of Earnhardt was the breaking point for me at the time. It was too many, too quick, and I couldn’t stand the thought of even going to a race track. It took awhile, but I eventually went back to races, but it was five or six years before I made it back to another Cup race.
If I heard one more person tell me they only liked racing for the wrecks, I thought I was going to vomit. Not only was it dangerous, it was also a lot of work for teams and crew members, most of which were volunteers in the ARCA racing series. I too am guilty of watching a race and in the heat of battle screaming at the TV for a driver to hit something, but I quickly change my mind and just wish for their engine to blow up. I do not, and have never watched a race for the crashes, at least not big crashes, some bumping and banging always makes for excitement, but when a bad crash occurs I immediately cringe and hope for the safety of all involved.
Racing is dangerous, no matter the series, no matter the type of vehicle. Drivers know this, and drivers know that the possibility exists of… well, they know. Drivers are not forced to do what they do; they do it because they love it. Other sports are dangerous as well, and bad things happen and will continue to happen. There is no reason to place blame on a series, a track, or a driver. Thankfully, a lot has been done to make drivers, crewmembers, and fans safer, and a lot will continue to be done to make them all safer. This is a constantly evolving sport, and the safety efforts made in the last 10 years have, undoubtedly saved numerous lives.
Next time someone tells you they love racing for the wrecks, speak up, let them know these are real people, real lives.