The White Zone: NASCAR’s Safety Team Needs Some Work

There’s one thing I have zero tolerance for in the world of motorsports, and that’s when incompetence puts the safety of drivers at risk. NASCAR, your safety team needs a lot of work.

On Lap 142 of the Ford EcoBoost 400, Danica Patrick got loose in Turn 1, the result of a flat right-rear tire, and hit the wall, and was rear-ended by Kasey Kahne.

As she drove her car back to pit road, the caved-in right-front tire caught fire down the backstretch. She then decided to drive it to the garage, but the fire spread when she reached the entrance to the pits. She parked it and quickly exited the car.

From the moment the caution came out, her wheel was on fire for over a minute.

So a few questions come to mind:

Why did nobody from NASCAR tell her to stop the moment the wheel caught fire?

And don’t tell me they couldn’t. NASCAR has spotters manning the entire perimeter of the speedway, not to mention cameras trained on every inch of the track. They had to know this was happening. And if they don’t, that’s another major problem.

Why was a safety truck not tailing Patrick back, considering her car was on fire?

Again, someone from NASCAR should’ve sent a safety truck straight to her, one, to make sure her damaged car gets back to pit road, and two, to assist her extraction from the burning car. One belt strap doesn’t come undone, running the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 next season suddenly becomes the least of Patrick’s concerns.

And this isn’t the first time the safety team has come under fire.

Earlier this season, Kevin Harvick blasted them for their pitiful response time to his wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“The worst part was the medical response. It took them forever to get to the car,” Harvick said. “I thought we made that better, but obviously we haven’t.”

But as Denny Hamlin revealed on Playoff media day back in September, it only got worse as the season progressed.

He told the story of how Aric Almirola’s ambulance that took him from his wrecked car at Kansas Speedway in May to the infield care center got lost.

“His ambulance got lost inside the race track and I mean, he had a serious injury,” Hamlin said. “So that was an issue, for sure. I know they’re trying to do the best they can. They’re not doing it every week, they’re just doing it when we come to town.

“People argue it should be the same team everywhere, others think that the ambulance crew should be familiar with just that racetrack.

“I don’t know what the correct answer is, but we for sure can get better because we’re not good right now.”

NASCAR, this farce you call a safety team has gone on long enough. This should’ve changed after Almirola’s mishap, and it needs to change now. And by change, I mean get an actual safety team, like IndyCar uses.

Sooner or later, this will get a driver seriously hurt, or killed.

That’s my view for what it’s worth.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2024, I'm on my ninth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Blazing Saddles" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."


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