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So You Think Racing Isn't Dangerous Anymore? Think Again

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Brad Keselowski's wrecked car, as shared on Twitter by Jimmie Johnson

Brad Keselowski's wrecked car, as shared on Twitter by Jimmie Johnson

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[Warning: strong images ahead]

The days of a death every month, or nearly every race, as during racing's storied but deadly heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, are well behind us, thanks in part to F1 legends like Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda who pushed for safety initiatives that have changed motorsports into a much safer activity--spurred by Lauda's famous, horrible accident that permanently scarred him with severe burns and many other incidents. But if you thought it had been reduced to near-complete safety through SAFER barriers, fire suits, HANS devices, and crash cells, you're wrong.

Accidents like Robert Kubica's 165-mph off at the Canadian GP in 2007 (seen on video below) and Mark Webber's spectacular backflip at Valencia (also on video below) can give the impression that modern track design and in-car safety gear are up to the task of near-complete protection.

Kubica's own devastating rally crash at the Ronde di Andora earlier this year, from which he's still recovering, puts the lie to that idea, however. So does Felipe Massa's injury from an errant spring at the Hungaroring in 2009, and Henry Surtees' death in a very similar accident the week before at Brands Hatch. These latter two incidents have made the push for yet more safety in open-cockpit racing, particularly F1, all the more urgent and innovative.

Brad Keselowski's technicolor foot after Road Atlanta testing crash.

Brad Keselowski's technicolor foot after Road Atlanta testing crash.

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But what about more close-to-home motorsports and crashes? Brad Keselowski's heavy shunt at Road Atlanta during testing earlier this month is a great example: his ankle is shown in the photo at left, though he had this to say on Twitter, according to @SHOInsideNASCAR: "The foot got a lot of coverage because you could see it but the pain in my back was tremendous." You can see more photos of his injury and wreck, as shared on Twitter by @JimmieJohnson, in the gallery below. Keselowski is recovering well. Just a few days ago, he tweeted, "Slowly getting better. Rehab today was painful. Good news- I can finally wear a shoe on left foot."

Travis Pastrana's x-rays and injuries after his crash at X Games 17

Travis Pastrana's x-rays and injuries after his crash at X Games 17

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Likewise, though it wasn't racing, but freestyle motocross jumping at X Games 17 that caused it, Travis Pastrana's latest injury is severe, judging by the well-stocked hardware store that's now taken up residence in his ankle and wrist. The injury kept him from making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with the Pastrana Waltrip 99 car.

There are many more injuries and deaths each season, at both amateur and pro levels, despite all that modern science has done to improve safety of the car, the track, and the driver's gear. Racing may not be the Russian roulette game it once was, but it's not a safe and sterile game stripped of its danger or need for courage, either.

That said, we still hop behind the wheel of every race car we can, and enjoy the hell out of it. As we like to say, be careful, be prepared, but most of all, be fast.





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