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The recent tragedy at Pocono Raceway that involved the death of a race fan that was struck by lightning has sparked a great deal of conversation. I will not indulge in Monday morning quarterbacking but would rather look ahead and make sure that NASCAR and the tracks have an effective plan in place to lessen the likelihood that these events are ever repeated.
NASCAR has the power to make sure storm warning procedures are standardized so that fans receive the warnings in the same fashion at all tracks. Fans would then know that the same procedures are being followed at all tracks and are not left up to each individual track and their operators.
A layered approach of spreading the word would insure that everyone gets informed that dangerous weather is approaching.
- Repeated public address announcements on the exact nature and severity of the weather. There is a problem with p.a. announcements at many tracks. Fans can barely hear the speakers over the roar of cars, so not everyone will hear the warnings.
- Utilize social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. They are a quick and effective way to reach folks. The down side is, not everyone subscribes or has a smart phone.
- The big screens and close circuit TVs need to flash the specific information in an easy to read and understand format.
Finally, if the weather system truly looks life threatening, then stop the race! I realize that is a drastic move but it you want to get the fans attention, shut off the cars. As long as cars are on the track loyal race fans aren’t going anywhere and that can be problem! If the cars are parked the fans are much more likely to seek shelter.
If the choice is fan safety versus continuing the race, well that’s an easy call, throw the red flag and stop the action. Lightning is almost impossible to predict and that makes any warning system much trickier to institute, but it’s no reason for not having a system in place.
NASCAR has made enormous strides in driver safety since the death of Dale Earnhardt, let’s hope this tragedy in Pocono leads to a reevaluation of fan safety.