- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
- Hank Aaron steps to fundraising plate for Democrat Michelle Nunn
- ISIL terrorists blow up burial site of Jonah, vow more of same
- Impeach Obama, say 35 percent in new poll
- Taliban yank 14 Shiites off bus, bind and shoot them on Afghan road
NASCAR remembers Wheldon as it prepares to race
Question of the Day
TALLADEGA, ALA. (AP) - Tony Stewart competes in NASCAR. His heart, though, belongs to open-wheel racing, and he spent the first 25 years of his life trying to get to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
When he did, in 1996, he and teammate Scott Brayton qualified first and second. Six days later, Brayton was killed during a practice run.
Stewart, a rookie that year, continued on every day at Indianapolis, started his first 500 nine days later and led 44 laps until his engine blew _ finally bringing an end to what was supposed to be a celebration of him fulfilling his lifelong dream.
But that’s what racers do. They race, and they’ll race this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where NASCAR becomes the first major series to run since Dan Wheldon died Sunday in the IndyCar season finale.
“It doesn’t affect us, getting back in the car,” Stewart said Friday at Talladega. “We all know that can happen every week. It’s been a part of racing forever.
Only some in NASCAR knew Wheldon, a popular two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who raced in a rival series. But his death touched everyone, and, 10 years after NASCAR’s last fatality, brought the element of danger back to the spotlight.
NASCAR finds itself this weekend on its biggest and fastest track, where speeds can hit 200 mph and Carl Edwards’ car went sailing into the fence in a 2009 last-lap accident. Debris from that accident flew into the grandstands, and seven fans were injured.
“That scared me,” Edwards said of the fan injuries. “Fortunately, everybody was OK and everything worked out and all the safety stuff in place worked and went our way. But that was a little wake-up call to me that this stuff is serious, and you have to be careful.”
On Friday, Greg Biffle posted the fastest lap of the two practice sessions at 198.94 mph.
Most drivers refuse to even think about the risk factor when they get into the car. But five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who walked away from a nasty hit in Saturday night’s race at Charlotte, admitted Wheldon’s death has made drivers confront the dangers.
Johnson was one of 10 drivers who tested at Charlotte on Monday, the day after Wheldon’s accident.
“Getting in the car … deep in the back of my mind, just thinking about things and there’s my marks in the wall in turn two and I’m like ‘Yeah, I had a bad angle and I hit pretty hard,’” Johnson said. “I think we spend very little time as drivers thinking about it, right or wrong. It’s just kind of who we are.”
NASCAR has made significant upgrades in safety since Dale Earnhardt’s 2001 fatal accident, from SAFER barriers, an updated car, the mandatory use of head-and-neck restraints and stronger seats. IndyCar also has made up considerable ground in safety, but Sunday’s race was the final event for its current car. The new car scheduled to debut next season is considered to be a vast improvement in safety and technology standards.
Even so, former Formula One world champion Jody Scheckter wants his son, Tomas, to quit the IndyCar series.
“I’ve wanted him to give up for a while,” Scheckter told BBC. “Hopefully this will knock some sense into him and make him realize there is more to life. It really isn’t worth it. It is the most dangerous form of motor racing at the moment.”
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Crime-ridden U.S. cities differ on ways to fight gun violence
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq