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Dance with Danger: The Fine Line Regarding The Appeal of Dangerous Motorsports

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Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway was a showcase in part of what makes motorsports appealing to many, while also being a sobering reminder of the danger that lurks around every corner. Motorsports is one of the very few types of competition where athletes run these risks of death and serious injury.

Fans and drivers alike do not want to be seriously injured or killed in a motorsports accident. However, that danger actually has a mysterious appeal to it to a few. Why is that, and where is that fine line?

What Makes Danger So Appealing?

Mario Andretti said to Time Magazine in April of 1967, “I don’t have any feeling of accomplishment about anything unless there’s a lot of risk to it.” This is coming from arguably the greatest race car driver of all time, and it also came during a time when death and serious injury were, unfortunately, common at the race track. However, people still kept showing up both in the grandstands and in the garage area to participate.

There truly is something to be said for watching someone get right to the edge, yet make their way through that to gain glory on the other side. It’s similar to the appeal of the gladiators in the time of the Romans.

Fans do not like seeing drivers get hurt. What they like to see is drivers do the daring things many could only dream of, and coming out on the other side with their hands held high as if they just cheated death itself. It’s the same thing that made daredevils like Evil Knievel fun to watch.

For drivers, there is nothing like being that guy who lived right on the ragged edge and ended up the victor on the other side. The trophy, the glory, the money, and everything in between make the reward worth the risk you take.

The Daytona race on Sunday was a great example of this. Cars were driving side-by-side and three wide trying to work their way up to the front for that coveted trophy, and many could do nothing but stay glued to these drivers defying almost everything one would naturally do in that type of a situation.

However, with this risk, comes a very harsh reality. The reality that all motorsports fans and drivers must come to terms with.

The Reality and Fine Line of Danger

While there was also incredibly close and daring racing on Saturday at Daytona, there is also the very cold reality of the risk these drivers are running. If someone messes up, it’s not just a fender bender at a stop sign, it’s a violent incident that could potentially seriously injure or kill a driver. Ryan Preece’s crash was a sober reminder of how badly things can go wrong, even if he seemed to avoid the most serious of consequences

Watching a crash like this in real-time is not enjoyable. It’s scary, and those seconds or even minutes where you wonder about the condition of a driver feels like hours. Being involved in a crash like this is terrifying, yet, you have to shake it and get back in the car just a week later.

These are the moments you have to come to terms with if you are a motorsports competitor or fan. This is also the fine line that NASCAR has to walk. At what point does the risk of how badly things can go wrong outweigh the appeal of the racing product or the technologies being tested?

That is a tough thing to figure out, and, sometimes, bad things happen. Thankfully, NASCAR has not suffered a fatality since Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500. They have mitigated that risk greatly in recent years, but that does not make moments like the Ryan Preece crash any less scary.

Conclusion

The danger turns many people off to motorsports for sure, but it also turns some on to it as well. It’s a very strange tug-of-war that happens, and it will exist as long as motorsports continues. Thankfully, we do not see injuries at the same rate as we used to in motorsports, and, that is always going to be a great thing.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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