(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a new feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from 51 columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Rob Blount, the author of this editorial, is the Northeast Editor for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
Racers are known for spending money, even sometimes when they don’t actually have the money to spend, to try to get that extra tenth of a second of speed on the race track. But unfortunately, there are drivers out there at every local short track who won’t spend the money in a place where they should: On themselves and their own safety behind the wheel.
It’s not uncommon to see drivers in the slower divisions at your local short track behind the wheel of a car with an open-faced helmet and no gloves on. It’s also not uncommon to see a driver wearing the same fire suit that they’ve been wearing for years and years.
And that’s something that has to change.
It doesn’t matter if you’re behind the wheel of a car that will only hit 60 miles-per-hour before the corner or if you’re racing one of the fastest cars at your track. Fire doesn’t know what type of car it is or how fast it goes. It can happen anywhere at any time regardless of how fast a car is going.
This past weekend at Georgia’s Senoia Raceway a driver was leading the Bombers feature when something apparently broke in the rear end of his car. He slammed the turn two wall and ruptured the fuel cell on his automobile. His car almost immediately burst into flames.
Bobby Arnold was able to escape the car under his own power, but he is still in an Atlanta-area hospital. Arnold suffered second and third degree burns to his face, hands and legs. He is still in the hospital undergoing skin graft procedures.
It has been confirmed that Arnold was not wearing gloves on Saturday at Senoia, a mistake he probably won’t make again. Thankfully, Arnold was not harmed any further and is expected to make a full recovery.
“I see people every week that race without gloves,” said Scott Sherrer, a Hobby Stock driver at Senoia Raceway where Arnold’s accident took place. “Put them on.”
His fire this past weekend was not the first time this year we’ve witnessed a serious fire at a race track. Jordan Ives’ crash and ensuing fire at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) back in February has been well documented. Fortunately, Ives was also able to escape any serious harm, even as the flames danced in front of his face.
“The safety equipment is the most important thing and I would remind other drivers to make sure their equipment is up to date,” Ives told Speed51.com powered by JEGS back in March, a few weeks after his crash. “If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
We all know that if it’s the latest and greatest in brakes, or transmissions, or clutches, or carburetors, racers will do what they can to find a way to buy them. But why isn’t it the same way when it comes to their livelihoods?
“You’ll spend however much money on a part that will help you go a little bit faster on the track,” Sherrer said, “but you won’t spend the $75 on a good pair of gloves? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Sherrer is absolutely right. That mindset doesn’t make any sense. And it’s a mindset that needs to change sooner rather than later.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Glen Starek