I’ve been watching the news for the last week that ISM Raceway in the Phoenix area is “down the home stretch” (pardon the pun) with its remodeling. I went to the NASCAR race on November 13, 2016, when it was still Phoenix International Raceway. Unbeknownst to me and thousands of fans, there is a real but hidden danger at the racetrack, one which NASCAR and ISM know about, but fail to warn or protect. I was sitting high in Row 25 when I was hit by a lug nut which broke my nose. There was no warning anywhere of any danger. In fact, upon entering the premises, a sign says that ISM takes fan safety seriously. They do not. For years prior to and since my accident, race after race, crews rush to change tires during pit stops, and don’t tighten down lug nuts. NASCAR conducts post-race inspections of the first- and second-place cars, and a random racecar. A whopping 70% of inspections result in the “lug nut(s) not properly installed” violation.*(1) On my fateful day, Kyle Busch’s car was found to have missing a lug nut post-race. Guess where it landed. A few millimeters more, it would have penetrated my eye and killed me.
One may think fans know they are assuming the risk of liability when attending a race. People have commented to me that it’s like a taking the risk when going to a baseball game. I assure you it is not. It hit me like bomb explosion. My husband thought I’d been shot. Average speed of a fastball? About 100 mph with speed decreasing coming off a bat. Speed of a racecar? Twice that with speed increasing as it flies off a wheel. In baseball, there’s only one ball at play. In NASCAR, there are five lug nuts per wheel, four wheels per car, 40 cars, six tire changes minimum per race, resulting at least 4,800 potentially loose flying lug nut projectiles.
To add insult to injury (again, pardon the pun), NASCAR owns the racetracks and writes its own rules. Can you imagine if the MLB or the NFL owned their own ballparks and wrote their own rules to do as they pleased? NASCAR says it’s too hard to police how many lug nuts teams are using. Is it really too hard or just more expensive to improve fan safety?
I went to the NASCAR race this past March, almost a year and a half later. ISM had a display of the upcoming $178 million dollar remodel - more grandstands, suites, bars and restaurants - which they hope will attract more fans. And more money. When I asked if there were plans to improve the fencing to protect fans, I was told no.
Race cars have crashed. Debris has gone flying through the chain link fence and injured fans, including the horrific Daytona race in 2015 which seriously injured five spectators, one of whom suffered brain damage. A safety net would have stopped that. Would have stopped a lug nut, too. The MLB announced in February that all 30 baseball teams must have extended safety nets to protect its fans. NASCAR? Not so much.
I guess ISM and NASCAR don’t really take fan safety seriously after all.
*(1)Pulver, Dinah Voyles. “Lug Nut Lunacy: More Than Half NASCAR’s Penalties Involve Lug Nuts.” http://www.news-journalonline.com/sports/20170628/lug-nut-lunacy-more-than-half-nascars-penalties-involve-lug-nuts?start=1 The Daytona Beach News-Journal. June 28, 2017. Updated March 7, 2018.