Drivers Walk Away From Big Crash

Michael McDowell

Crews work to remove Michael McDowell's wrecked car during Sunday's race at Watkins Glen. (Photo: Getty Images)

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Michael McDowell and Ryan Newman walked away from a fierce crash during Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International with different perspectives on the incident.

McDowell, whose car tore a section of guardrail out, praised the safety of the cars with being able to walk away. Newman, who also walked away, questioned the use of guardrails at the track.

“Just really sad to see the antiquated walls around this race track and the lack of safety,’’ Newman said. “They’ve got no problems of spending $400 million in Daytona, but they could spend a few million dollars on safety and make a lot of drivers happy.’’

McDowell said: “Amazing to walk away from accidents like that and not have broken bones. Our sport has done a tremendous job with these racecars. We keep making them safer and safer.’’

McDowell was asked about Newman’s comments on the walls and said: “Racing has been dangerous, it will be dangerous, it’s supposed to be dangerous. If you think you’re strapping into a racecar and there’s nothing going to happen, then it’s probably not time to strap into a racecar. It’s supposed to be dangerous.’’

Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, said safety is an important factor for the track.

“The barriers that we have worked,’’ he said. “The fence worked. The Armco (barrier) worked.’’

Printup said normal procedure would be to review the situation at NASCAR and the safety experts at the University of Nebraska.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, defended the use of Armco barriers at Watkins Glen in an interview on ESPN.

“It’s a constant improvement process, and, as you know, many of the places we go to, the facilities are multi-purpose and we’re only there one weekend a year,’’ Pemberton said. “We’re not the only series that races. Watkins Glen has made great advancements in the terms of Turns 1 and 2 and all of that. That’s worked quite well for us. Not all places are places for SAFER barriers. Different types of systems help slow the cars down as you could see the incident with Cole Whitt earlier in the race down into Turn 1. It was good that the tire barrier was there.’’

Problems started in this incident, Newman said, with Greg Biffle.

“(He) jumped the curb and hit the splitter or something up on the curb and got out and got across the grass,’’ Newman said. “And I probably could have given him a little bit more, but I tried to time it so I could shoot past, but he slowed down when he got back on the race track. My hit into the wall wasn’t that bad, it was the shot that I got from McDowell.’’

McDowell tried to avoid Newman’s car but couldn’t.

“The impact into Newman wasn’t bad because it was a little bit of a glazing blow because I tried to aim for the guardrail to not him in the door,’’ McDowell said. “When I got up in the air, the next hit after that was the violent one for sure. That’s the one that knocked the wind out of me a little bit.’’

The incident caused the race to be delayed more than an hour for repairs. 

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