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Dillon wasn’t hurt, and he was able to drive his car back to the garage. After Mears hit him, it appeared the rest of the pack cleared the accident scene and could have raced on without coming into contact with Dillon.

Most important, though, was that it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in second place and patiently waiting to attempt a last-lap pass of Jamie McMurray for the win. When the caution came out, the field was frozen, and now nobody will ever know what Junior had up his sleeve.

It doesn’t matter.

This isn’t a blood sport, drivers aren’t Roman gladiators, and there comes a time when a race is simply over.

“I think there are people who fail to see the danger in race car driving anymore,” Wilson said Monday from his hospital bed in California. “But we’ve lost some drivers and quite a few people have been hurt. Maybe it isn’t as safe as we think it is?

“These days it does take more of a freak accident to get injured, but we can’t forget the protocol of what to do in those situations, whether it’s Daytona when fans get injured or Talladega when a car takes off and gets hit pretty hard when it lands,” he said. “They’ve got to stick to the protocol in looking after drivers and fans.”

Stewart’s injury in a sprint car crash was yet another blow this year to a community that had already lost NASCAR driver Jason Leffler in a June accident in New Jersey and Kramer Williamson, who died from injuries suffered in an accident in Pennsylvania the day before Stewart’s wreck. Last week was the two-year anniversary of Dan Wheldon’s death in the 2011 IndyCar season finale.

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, became somewhat consumed with sprint car safety following his accident, vowing to be part of the process to lift the black cloud hanging over the sport.

“There’s going to be something positive come out, just like in NASCAR,” he said, referring to the way NASCAR overhauled its safety measures following the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt.

Nobody wants any more driver deaths or injuries. So when NASCAR or any other sanctioning body calls for a caution to check on the well-being of a driver, to slow down the field, or to protect a participant or a fan, the race to the finish line no longer matters.