[The following is part four of a series. I realize my main audience will not be racing fans. I will do my best to make this series accessible.]

“People watch racing just for the crashes.”

Have you heard this? Maybe you’ve said it. It may be true to some extent in NASCAR, but I don’t think it’s so true for fans of open-wheel racing.

I find that phrase annoying. It’s like saying that crashes are exciting, and the actual racing is boring. I don’t like to see crashes in racing for several reasons. Crashes… 1) are dangerous. Someone can get hurt. 2) negatively affect the outcome of the race. When drivers crash, the level of competition is lowered for the remainder of the race, and the best drivers/teams may not win. 3) cause the race to last longer. It takes time to clean up the wrecks. 4) sometimes include my favorite drivers (example: Will Power and Tony Kanaan at Fontana… Both lost championships as a result).

And yet, ironically, the existence of crashes adds some intrigue to the racing. To be fast is to be near the edge of control. To see a driver not crash when they could have can be really exciting (example: The last half-lap of this year’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen… the top two drivers were sliding all over the place and running into each other, yet hung on to finish).

What do I like about racing? A lot of things. Racing became my favorite sport after playing a computer game when I was 6 years old. Since then, the simple action of a racing car on a race track is attractive to me. Along with that I like the competition, certain drivers, the tracks, the looks of the cars, the skill, etc.

The reality is that I can not pick and choose. The highs and lows come together in a package. For me: the highs are worth enduring the lows. After the two deaths discussed in this series, and the observation of more from the study of racing history, I never considered the option to stop liking racing.

In conclusion, death in racing is a a real issue that I’ve had to deal with. The tragic deaths of Earnhardt, Wheldon, and other drivers have deeply saddened and impacted me. Racing is still dangerous, but it’s a lot safer than it used to be. The entire package is not perfect, no, but I like it enough to keep following the sport.

[part 1: The greatest race that isn’t]
[part 2: It doesn’t get any easier the second time]
[part 3: Safety is a process]

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