By Capt. Herb Emory
Helmets off to Ryan Newman for having the guts to be the latest driver calling for NASCAR to establish a emergency response team to travel the Winston Cup circuit with teams each week. Newman, driver of the No. 12 Dodge, expressed his concerns after a crash during practice at Watkins Glen.
He's not the first to call for the safety improvement. It's been a topic of conversation since Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash in 2001. The Indy Racing League started the practice of adding emergency personnel to their racing caravan several years ago. The same rescue team travels with drivers and crews to the tracks where the series races.
It's not unlike the local rescue squad in your neighborhood. If you live in Rockdale County you would feel more comfortable with Rockdale County firefighters responding to your situation, rather than the fire department from Stockbridge. That's not to say that Henry County emergency workers are not as efficient as their Rockdale counterparts, but I would be more at ease during my emergency if it were workers that lived in and were familiar with my home county.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has always had an excellent response team at their events, but some of the tracks on the schedule lack the expert resources available in our area. Those are the speedways where a traveling emergency team would mean major enhancements to the driver safety efforts.
If money is the drawback to beginning the practice, maybe NASCAR could start out small. Have two rescue trucks and teams at each track to work with the local emergency workers. They could have the trucks stationed on opposite sides of the track and they could respond with the local track teams when an incident occurs.
NASCAR rescue teams working together with the local fire and safety squads could very quickly calm some of the concerns of the drivers that compete in this sometimes deadly game. It might even save a life someday.
Motor City: The NASCAR teams are on their way to Michigan International Speedway this weekend. It will be round two for the season at the Motor City racing arena.
Bill Elliott has the best record at Michigan among the active drivers. He's had seven trips to Victory Lane since 1984 and has scored top-10 finishes in 29 of the 48 races he has run there.
Rusty Wallace has a good report card from the track that his team owner, Roger Penske, owns. Wallace has five Michigan wins. His first win at the track was in 1988.
Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett have scored four Michigan wins each. Martin's wins came in 1998, 1997, 1993 and 1990. Jarrett won events there in 2002, 1999, 1996 and 1991.
Bobby Labonte has a trio of Michigan victories listed on his resume. He won both races at the track in 1995 and another in 1999.
Jeff Gordon has two wins there. The No. 24's victories came in 2001 and in 1998.
The one-time winners at Michigan include Kurt Busch (2003), Matt Kenseth (2002), Sterling Marlin (2001) and Tony Stewart (2000).
The top-five finishers of the June race at Michigan were Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Michael Waltrip. Nine drivers traded the lead 22 times and there were nine caution flag incidents.
Awesome Bill Update: Bill Elliott made it through the last road course race of the year with his equipment still in one piece and managed to leave Watkins Glen with 20th-place pay. He advanced from 17th to 16th on the Winston Cup point chart.
Bill Elliott has been running the Michigan track since 1976 and has claimed seven wins, seven poles, 17 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes there. He has led laps in 29 of the 51 races he has run at the track. His last win there was in 1989. He started 16th and finished 24th in the June Michigan event.
Jawga Boys: Fayette County resident Mark Wallace has reason to brag. Wallace, co-owner of the No. 77 Winston Cup team, claimed the Masters Division championship in the Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday Thunder Series. Wallace won four of the 10 races held in the summer series. Wallace had more reasons to feel good on Saturday when his driver in the ARCA/ReMax Series registered a fourth-place run at Nashville Superspeedway. Doug Stevens, of Lovejoy, had started the Jasper Engines and Transmissions car from the ninth position.
Winder's Mark Gibson had a decent run in the ARCA race too. Gibson started 19th and finished eighth in the 151-lap run at Nashville. Gibson is ranked third in the ARCA points as the series heads to the one-mile dirt track at Illinois State Fairgrounds for their next contest Sunday. A dirt track race would be exciting to watch, but the only way you'll be able to see the action is to buy a ticket and be in the grandstands. The Illinois race is one of the ARCA races that the Speed Channel has decided not to televise.
Bill Lester drove his Craftsman Truck Series machine up front at Nashville, but his pit strategy didn't work out the way he had hoped. The Cobb County driver left the Music City track with 16th-place pay. Lester holds down 13th-place in the truck point standings.
Ricky Sanders finished 27th in the truck run at Nashville. The Henry County driver is ranked 29th in points after running a half-dozen of the 15 series events this season. The trucks won't run again until a special Wednesday night race at Bristol on August 20th.
Herb Emory, a traffic reporter and host of the Allan Vigil 120 racing show on WSB-AM 750, is a guest columnist for The Daily. His racing column appears in the weekend edition.