By: Ashley McCubbin
As NASCAR embarks on the 2021 season, it marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt.
The death of the biggest star in the sport started a safety revolution, which saw the sanctioning body focus more on safety initiatives than they had in the past. The result was several changes implemented over the course of the year and a half that followed, from car structure to the mandate of the HANS device.
The importance of safety became the focus just a year ago at Daytona International Speedway with Ryan Newman’s crash coming to the checkered flag. Thankfully, the injuries were limited and he was able to return to the racecar shortly thereafter.
Michael McDowell was a benefit of the safety changes, able to walk away from a crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008. Entering the corner, he would get loose after getting in the speedy dry, going sideways before making contact with the wall and flipping over multiple times.
Taking a glance back at the wreck recently, McDowell noted any time there’s a significant wreck in NASCAR, the sanctioning body is quick to take a look and learn what they can.
“NASCAR has done a great job with their R&D Center and just their whole team that goes back and analyzes all the data and all the video and looks at the cars and measures everything and see what moves and see what didn’t move and see what could be stronger and what needs to be weaker so that it does move,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Obviously, every year you learn a great amount and unfortunately those big crashes are sort of what helps you get to that next level, and with Ryan’s crash at the Daytona 500 last year they were able to learn a few things that went into our cars at the end of last year and then starting this year, so you’re always learning from those tough experiences and always getting safer and safer.
“But I feel incredibly safe driving our race cars. You know that there’s always a danger, but I just feel like our cars are incredibly safe right now.”