Saturday, February 23, 2013

Calamity, Censorship Mar NASCAR Race at Daytona

28 people sustained injuries when a massive crash took place during Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Race at Daytona International Speedway.

The multi-car crash compromised the protective fencing around the track, sending at least one of the cars airborne and debris flying into the crowds that were sat at the grandstands.

14 People were transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center for treatment. All of the admitted patients were reported to be in stable condition.

SPEED reported earlier that of the six people who were treated for trauma-related injuries, one was in critical condition and was undergoing treatment for head-related trauma, while the other was a minor. 

Eyewitnesses at the scene recounted debris and "metal chunks" hurdling towards spectators in the grandstands.

The engine block, along with suspension components and a tire from rookie Kyle Larson's #32 Turner Scott Motorsports car were found littered across the grandstand where the crash and fence intrusion took place. 

Despite the violent impact, Larson was unhurt and managed to climb out of the cockpit on his own power as what was left of his car came to a rest at the infield.

Speaking to the media during a press briefing at 7pm local time, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood was adamant that Sunday's Daytona 500 feature race will go ahead as scheduled. 

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," read Chitwood from a prepared statement.  "On the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately. We transported 14 people off property and treated 14 people at our on-track care center. 

"We’re in the process of repairing this facility and we’re ready to go racing tomorrow."

Chitwood confirmed the debris was limited to "the grandstands immediately outside where the car hit, and said no changes will be made to fan seating for Sunday's race.

"We don’t anticipate moving any of our fans. We had our safety protocols in place. Our security maintained a buffer that separates the fans from the fencing area. 

"And with the fence being prepared tonight to our safety protocols, we expect to go racing tomorrow with no changes."

When asked whether the ambitious changes proposed for the race track would have prevented today's accident, Chitwood was quick to say it was "unfair" to draw such a comparison.

"I’m not sure it’s fair to compare an incident that occurred today with potentially the future development of the property," replied Chitwood. "I don't think it's fair to compare those two right now."

"The key was that we were prepared, we responded, we had the appropriate personnel in place." 

An estimated 25 feet of fencing was damaged as a result of the accident. Chitwood said the damaged sections will be replaced tomorrow with "strict fencing" and not the original crossover gate fencing, citing time constraints for the decision.

NASCAR's Senior Vice President for Racing operations Steve O'Donnell stated NASCAR will thoroughly investigate as to what happened during the fateful final lap crash.

"On behalf of NASCAR I certainly want to echo Joie's statements about the fans that were injured here today. Our thoughts are certainly with them and their families."

"As with any of these incidents, we will conduct a thorough review. We will work closely with the tracks as we do for all our events, learn what we can and what we can apply in the future."

""We are very confident that we will be ready for tomorrow’s event with the 55th running of the Daytona 500."

"The safety of our fans is first and foremost and we’ll make that happen."

O'Donnell also confirmed all of the drivers involved in the crash have undergone medical checks on site and have been released.

Michael Annett, the driver in the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports car who was involved in an earlier accident during the race was also transported to Halifax Medical Center for further medical treatment. A statement from the team confirms that he was "complaining of pain in his chest and sternum". He has since undergone a CT scan and will be kept for observation overnight.

Drivers Offer Support to Injured

In the aftermath of the crash, may took to Twitter to offer words of support to those who were injured in the calamitous incident.

"The only thing I'm concerned about right now is the people in the stands," tweeted Regan Smith, who drives the #7 JR Motorsports Car. "Praying for all those who were affected by the accident." 

"I echo what everyone else has already stated that our thoughts are with those affected by the accident today," tweeted Brian Vickers. "Prayers for them all."

"As drivers we know the risks and dangers of driving a race car. It's part of the job," tweeted former Penske driver A.J. Allmendinger. "The fans should not have to take the same risks as us."

"Just praying and hoping for good news about every spectator that was involved."

 NASCAR Takes Down Homemade Video on "Copyright" Grounds

Shortly after the accident, a video surfaced on YouTube capturing a firsthand account of the crash from the grandstand, showing the severity of the damage inflicted from the flying debris. 

However, NASCAR took down the video based on Copyright Grounds, but not before the clip was broadcast on television by CNN and ESPN's SportsCenter. Numerous clones also popped up on the Internet. 

NASCAR's chief marketing officer Steve Phelps later put out a statement saying, "The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today's NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today's accident. 

"Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of cation with this very serious incident." 

The video has since been restored, with a YouTube spokesperson citing the clip in question showed no basis on infringing copyright as NASCAR originally claimed. 

"Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos."

The 55th Running of the Daytona 500 gets under way on Sunday at 1pm Eastern Time. Pole-sitter Danica Patrick will start alongside Jeff Gordon on the front row.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hacktivist Group Anonymous Vows Action Over Bahrain GP

Internet Hacktivist Group "Anonymous" took to Twitter to respond to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's comments that he was "100% sure" this year's Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled.

The elusive organization tweeted "Ecclestone we are coming for you again," and and ominous "Expect Us" with the hashtag #OpBahrain. 

Beneath the Data and Rhetoric, An Appeal for Credibility

Like many in the automotive world, I was enthralled by the war of words between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and the New York Times over the paper’s unflattering review of the Tesla's electric Model S Sedan. 

What started off as a routine automotive review has twisted into a crisis of integrity, with journalists, Tesla owners and a trigger-happy public all too eager to fan the flames.

Twitter theatrics notwithstanding, credibility is the reason why this story stayed in the news cycle for as long as it has. On the one hand there is Elon Musk, the charismatic, outspoken, enterprising CEO hailed as a modern day equivalent of Tony Stark. On the other is the New York Times, an institution held in such high esteem that it’s been described as “necessary proof of the world’s existence”.  

Credibility is also what’s at stake. Mr Musk made a fortune from selling Paypal. But much of that fortune went into starting and, as was seen in “Revenge of the Electric Car”, sustaining Tesla Motors. Musk has put his money where his mouth is. But as Tesla's Chairman and CEO, he is also biased towards protecting his investment.

Then there’s the New York Times, a trusted, 161 year old news organization that wields tremendous influence in setting the editorial agenda and well regarded as the definitive paper of record.

The Tesla story encapsulates the essence of what is known as the “New York Times Effect”, whereby stories that were covered by the Times would be imitated or aggregated by other newspapers on the following day. The immediacy of the Internet age has sped up the process considerably, but this basic principle of trickle down influence remains the same.

But the Times isn’t infallible. It’s an organization run by people, and people make mistakes. High profile blunders like Judith Miller and Jayson Blair have seriously jeopardized the newspaper’s reputation in the past, and believability towards news organizations has been consistently declining.
In a generation empowered by the anonymous and instantaneous nature of social media, credibility that took over a century to nurture can be called into question in an instant.

Shortly after Mr. Broder’s review was published, many automotive websites and eventually mainstream news sites like NPR and Forbes picked up on the story, culminating in Elon Musk himself appearing on CNBC that same day to answer to the original Times report.

Mr Broder also broke his silence and issued a lengthy clarification to some of the more contentious points of his review.

Many news outlets and Tesla owners seized on the opportunity and sought to debunk Mr. Broder’s claims by retracing the route that he took on his test drive.  Aside from a few charging hiccups along the journey, all of the cars arrived at their destination without the dramas that Mr Broder experienced during his test. 

The Times’s public editor Margaret Sullivan issued a summary judgment on Mr Broder’s review in the hopes of pacifying the frenzy, demonstrating that when it comes to accountability, the Times isn’t above examining one of its own. 

Ms. Sullivan determined there were few “unassailable” conclusions from the story that will continue to be examined and subjected to a multitude of interpretations, and judging by the ongoing stream of news coverage and Internet commentary, the discourse shows no signs of abating.