Racing deaths unacceptable

Most sports aren't a matter of life and death. Sadly, stock car racing currently is.
   I realize there is no way to make such a dangerous endeavor 100 percent fatality proof, but frankly I'm sick of greedy track owners and sanctioning bodies doing little to make the sport safer at the major racing facilities.
   Blaise Alexander was the fifth driver to die behind the wheel of a stock car in a major event in 16 months. So this past weekend at Charlotte there was a major controversy.
   Why? Was the sport's largest sanctioning body finally going to get off their "no knee-jerk" reaction stance and finally do something productive about making racing safer?
   No, they were in the midst of an argument between the sponsor of a race track and the television network broadcasting the races. They had to apologize to the network for the "embarrassing behavior" of a race track, who was upset over having their sponsor not mentioned on Sunday's telecast unless the sponsor shelled out major advertising dollars to the network. This comes after Lowe's paid millions of dollars for rights to the former Charlotte Motor Speedway.
   You want to know what's really embarrassing -- having four drivers from your own sanctioning body die in crashes and another in Thursday's ARCA race needlessly pass away.
   Those smarter than I am, point to soft walls, mandatory head and neck restraints, the "Humpy Bumper" and race cars specifications with more of a crush factor as possible solutions. One solution that does not work is no action at all.
   I find it disgusting that a sanctioning body who changes the rules within days or weeks after a GM, Chrysler or Ford product gains a competitive advantage has been so slow to react to a problem that has claimed the lives of four up and coming racers and the biggest superstar stock car racing has ever known.
   With just 13 national event wins to his credit, Bill Jenkins' record as a driver pales in comparison to Pro Stock counterparts Warren Johnson (86) and Bob Glidden (85). But Jenkins has earned his well-deserved spot in drag racing's Top 10 because no other individual has contributed more to the advancement of normally aspirated engines for quarter-mile competition than the legendary "Grump."
   In 1972, Jenkins grossed $250,000 to match NBA star Wilt Chamberlain's salary as the highest paid pro athlete in the country, resulting in coverage in Time magazine, the first time a drag racer had been given mainstream recognition.
   Jenkins has earned many honors, including induction into the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1993 and into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich., in 1996. He has been one of the more prolific honorees in Car Craft Magazine All-star Drag Racing Team balloting since winning three individual titles at the inaugural banquet in 1967.
   Matt Wolfe passed teammate Wade Day on the last lap to win the 150-lap Late Model feature in Saturday's "Night of Champions". After leading on the white flag lap, Day got loose off turn two allowing Wolfe to pull alongside.
   Wolfe won the race by less than a foot over 2000 track champion Day. Pole sitter Robbie Ferguson finished third, while Wade Lopex and Kres Van Dyke rounded out the top five.
   Tommy Spangler won his fifth Sportsman race of the season beating 17-year old Abingdon high school student Caleb Holman, who wrapped up the track championship.
   The top two finishers in the Street Stock race, Sam Ferguson and Joey Owens were disqualified after not tearing down for postrace. Chuck Crigger was awarded the win over Stacey Castle, although Castle took home the 2001 title.
   Josh Story won the Charger feature with sixth-place Bill Coleman taking the championship. Kirby Gobble won for the 12th time in 14 tries to win the Modified-Mini crown.
   Jeff Maupin, who led all the track's drivers with 20 wins, won the UMP Open Wheel Modified championship. Darrell Gillespie won the Legends race and title, while Garland Worley won the Pro Challenge Truck championship.