Should NASCAR Re-Evaluate Testing Policy After Brad Keselowski Wreck?

Brad Keselowski's demolished car at Road Atlanta, via Jimmie Johnson's Twitter feed.

The injuries Brad Keselowski's sustained last week occurred while testing at a non-NASCAR facility. Given the severity of the wreck and the lack of SAFER barriers, should NASCAR re-examine the current ban on testing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks?

Brad Keselowski's win Sunday at Pocono Raceway was made much more dramatic considering the injuries he sustained last week testing at Road Atlanta.

With a ban on testing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks in place, teams are forced to use tracks not on the NASCAR schedule for test sessions. While the ban is aimed at cutting costs for teams, is it putting drivers and teams at risk?

Following his wreck last week, Keselowski certainly thinks so.

"There's a reason there are certain tracks that are on the schedule that are on the schedule," he said. "They're great facilities, they're nice facilities to drive on and when things go wrong, people don't get hurt. It's been a long time since we've seen a wreck in Cup where a driver has gotten seriously hurt. I was really lucky because I should have been (seriously hurt). That has a lot to do with the facilities you go to."

While he said he enjoyed testing at Road Atlanta, the injured driver said "there is a reason it's not a Cup facility."

Also testing Road Atlanta that day, Jimmie Johnson said everyone knew if anyone went off course during the test "it was going to be a tough one."

Standing outside of his car, Johnson saw Keselowski drive past, head straight into the corner and hard into the tire barrier. Johnson quickly jumped into a rental car and drove to the site of the wreck to help in any way he could.

"I could tell he was a bit dazed when he got out of the car," Johnson said. "I spoke to him the night after the wreck and he didn't remember me being down at the race car with him. So, I think he was definitely dazed.

"I was shocked because (on) his right foot, I saw the lacerations and the issues he had there, (but) he wasn't really complaining about his left foot," he said. "When I saw his photos on Twitter and how swollen his left foot was, I'm like, ‘Man!' At the track he never mentioned it and never saw any issues there. I was pretty shocked to see how swollen that left foot was."

Also on the track that day and one of the first at the scene of the wreck was longtime Keselowski friend – and former car owner – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Though he was pleased to see Keselowski escaped major injury, he disagreed that NASCAR teams should not be testing at facilities such as Road Atlanta, saying they were as good as any road course he has been to.

"They were as good as Sonoma and as good as Watkins Glen," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I think it was a situation where everything did its job, the tire barrier did its job and the concrete barrier did its job. When you lose your brakes you're going to have big damn problems at any race track. So I think us being able to go there and test is perfectly fine.

"That (wreck) didn't really raise a flag for me and to go, ‘Oh man, maybe we should do something different.' I didn't really feel that way."

Although Earnhardt Jr. felt there was no need for a change, Johnson agreed with Keselowski and added the overall testing format needs to be re-examined.

"I know we're trying to keep expenses down, but here we are going to a track we don't race at, on a tire we won't use for the race and trying to find a way to make it correlate to a track we run on with a tire we use," Johnson said. "So we're kind of wasting money in a sense."

The five-time champion would like to see NASCAR allow teams to go to tracks they race on with a tire they plan on using instead of banning testing altogether at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.

"We're all going to spend the money," Johnson said. "We all have some budget set aside to test and develop our cars. Let's use it wisely and in a productive manner."

Despite Johnson's comments, team owner Richard Childress explained his team has cut their testing budget "way, way back" and only do a certain number of tests a year. For the longtime owner, the ideal situation would be to come into tracks on Thursdays.

"I think the big thing would be if they allowed us to come in on Thursdays before – if they wanted to do one road course a year and come in on Thursday – pick a track," he said. "It would be so much more economical, although it's still very expensive."

J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, also indicated his organization had reduced its testing budget since the ban was implemented. With his team at the same test at Road Atlanta, Gibbs does not believe Keselowski's wreck illustrates a need for a change in policy when it comes to testing, especially given the tools many teams have at their disposal at the shop.  

"I'd be surprised if any teams say they don't see the value in cutting back – there is a huge financial value," Gibbs said. "I think we have other tools we didn't have years ago that we can use to really kind of dial stuff in in a different way."

The garage may be split on whether NASCAR needs to take another look at the testing ban, but in the end, teams are going to do whatever it takes to gain an advantage over the competition.

"Those are the things we have to do if we want to remain competitive; if we want to find that edge, if we want to go to Watkins Glen and unload a competitive Miller Lite Dodge, you've got to take those chances," Keselowski said. "This Wednesday when we took those chances, we paid the price for it – and almost a much larger price on my side."

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