Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jet Dryers: A Safety Regulator's Dream

Ever seen this before? Me neither. 
Word now has it that NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies may legislate new rules regarding the use of jet dryers that mandates custom-built fuel cells for the dryers and firesuits and helmets for all personnel associated with their use.

Before I continue, let me point out that I've been in the racing industry for 30 years. This not a hobby. It's my living. I am a racecar driver who also has a wife and children, so safety is paramount to me.

But in all my years of auto racing, I've never seen anything like the freak jet dryer accident that occurred at this year's Daytona 500. Never. Zippo. Nada. I've never witnessed anything remotely resembling such an incident.

For crying out loud... are they seriously going to start legislating new safety rules to prevent the repetition of an incident that likely has no precedent in the 100-year history of the sport? Honestly?

If one flagman were to fall off his perch once in a hundred years, would they mandate that all flagmen chain themselves to their stands? Heaven help us.

I'm reminded of the radio station I worked at many years ago where, in response to a single, obscure technical foul in a celebrity basketball game, the manager panicked and outlawed all sporting events in the corporation.

Sometimes I really believe the whole world is run by idiots.

The pattern here is agonizingly predictable. Gripped by our nation's new-found fanaticism over safety and security and urged on by an army of lawyers and insurance profiteers, NASCAR will announce the new legislation. Other series will soon follow. Jet dryer owners will be forced to retrofit their equipment with expensive new fuel cells for an event that has occurred once in the history of the sport.

Jet dryer crews will have to spend about a thousand dollars per person for a new, triple-layer nomex firesuit, making their summertime work even hotter than it already is. They'll also be required to buy nomex hoods, underwear, gloves and shoes. Add another $300 to the job. And throw in another $750 for a nomex-lined helmet.

As the new panic-driven rules work their way down to contaminate lesser race series, smaller tracks will find jet dryer service more expensive to obtain. Some will not be able to afford it.

Meanwhile, the profit-by-mandate sharks will begin circling. Fuel cell manufacturers, helmet makers and firesuit producers will all push to have the new safety gear mandated at every level of the sport, cheered on by lawyers, insurance agencies, and every other bozo who lacks the moral fiber to sell his product through voluntary interaction rather than legislative mandate.

This is, after all, the brave new Amerika. We don't sell products to willing buyers anymore. We force customers to buy through legislation. And we cower them into submission through paranoia and fear, constantly reminding them that the tragic incident that occurred once in a century might... somehow... one day... perhaps... strike again.

So before we all get caught up in the ridiculous insanity that is as certain as sunrise to follow this event, allow me to point out the obvious:

  • Nobody died. 
  • There weren't even any serious injuries. 
  • You're more likely to be struck by lightning than to suffer a horrible, fiery death inside a jet dryer tow truck while circling your nearby speedway. 
Look, people... I'm all for safe racing. But knee-jerk reactions to once-in-a-lifetime freak accidents do not advance safety. The only result will be adding considerable complication and expense to our sport; neither of which is helpful to anyone.

NASCAR, I beg you... come out from behind that tree. Stop quivering with panic. Step into the sunshine, accept the 0.001% risk that it might happen again in the next few hundred years, and enjoy life.

Stephen Cox
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auction, Velocity channel
#21 Packs Racing/Boschett/McGunegill Engines Chevy 
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any other party. 

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