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Flap over safety no laughing matter

Despite the obvious safety enhancements introduced to NASCAR racing in the first decade of the 21st century, the past race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway provided compelling testimony that there's still work to be done.

The packed front stretch grandstand for Sunday's Sprint Cup race bore witness to the popularity of Talladega, where mayhem is just a sudden twitch or minute mistake in judgment away. Nowhere is the sense of imminent danger so palpable.

On Sunday afternoon, danger invaded the grandstand when Carl Edwards' #9 Ford slammed into the catch fence in front of Section K during a frenetic finish in which Brad Keselowski took the chequered flag. Seven fans sustained injuries. Shrapnel from the wreck flew hard and fast enough to break the jaw of a woman sitting close to the fence.

It was a collision with Ryan Newman's Chevrolet that launched Edwards into the fence, but the rear wheels of Edwards' Ford already had risen above the pavement. Contact with Keselowski's Chevy in the final quarter-mile had turned Edwards's car and gotten the rear end airborne moments before Newman's car slammed into it.

NASCAR stock cars are equipped with roof flaps, aerodynamic devices designed to counteract a spinning car's tendency to act like a wing and fly off the pavement. The right-side flap is built to deploy when the spin approaches a critical angle of approximately 150 degrees, where the wing effect, or lift, becomes pronounced. The flap on the driver's side is supposed to pop up when the car spins 180 degrees - in other words, when the rear of the car is pointing straight down the racetrack, to prevent further lift if the car continues to spin.

That didn't happen Sunday afternoon. In the words of one racing engineer, the right flap appeared 'sticky' on deployment. Instead, the flaps popped up in reverse order, the left first and the right following a fraction of a second later, thus depriving the car of the full benefit of the roof flaps.

According to a consensus of engineers interviewed by Sporting News, Edwards' car likely would have settled and stayed out of the fence had Newman's car not been there to launch it. Nevertheless, a unique convergence of circumstances created a breathtaking crash that injured seven fans in the process.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, discounted the possible effect of the roof flaps deploying in any particular order.

“What order they come up in really isn't significant at all,” Pemberton said. “It just breaks the airflow over the car and reduces the lift. Any type of air disturbance can cause one or the other to happen. That's why they're there at two different angles. It's not an issue.”



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Carl Edwards crashes out at Talladega
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, beats Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, races Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, November 20, 2015 Sunday`s final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Sport Clips Toyota, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 7, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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gruk - Unregistered

April 28, 2009 4:15 PM

ummm Carl Edwards has already said it was his fault, watch the footage again, Edwards moves back down in front of the Chevy so it wasnt the Chevy drivers fault at all

Mary Mary - Unregistered

April 29, 2009 11:27 AM

Gruk doesn't even know the name of "the chevy driver". Obviously he was watching closely then - must of got home fast from thruxton, geez people who wanna have opinions on things they don't even know about. So i'm guesing if matt neal shoved another car into a barrel roll and into the crowd crushing your legs and crippling you it would be ok becasue "you know the risks" :)



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