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Even After Report, NASCAR Has Critics

Dale Earnhardt in file photo.
AP
Six months after racing legend Dale Earnhardt's death, NASCAR's release of its investigation into the accident is doing little to dispel criticism it's a closed organization slow to implement available safety measures, reports CBS News Correspondent Bobbi Harley.

"It's in everyone's interest for racing to be safer," said Monty Dutton, an auto racing writer and now a critic of America's most popular auto racing organization. Dutton said NASCAR itself is to blame for a wall of suspicion surrounding it.

"I don't believe that the number one agenda was really telling the truth about what happened, I believe the number one agenda was probably protecting NASCAR from liability," Dutton said of Earnhardt's death and the subsequent investigation.

For its part, NASCAR has said little about Earnhardt's death and challenged anyone asking about it.

"We know more than you do right now, but we're still looking for answers," NASCAR president Mike Helton said in February.

When NASCAR did speak, the organization seemed to raise more questions. For example, officials said they knew immediately a seat belt had broken in Earnhardt's car, but they didn't tell the seat belt manufacturer - or anyone else - until days later. When they did tell the belt's maker, Bill Simpson, the news was so devastating it forced him out of the auto safety industry after 46 years.

Until Tuesday, when its findings were released, NASCAR had indicated the belt had little to do with Earnhardt's death.

"Even for a couple of months after his death, they didn't realize that this device may have helped him, which we think it would have now," said Jim Dowling, a manufacturer of a head and neck driver safety system, which is mandatory in two other racing organizations, but which even after Earnhardt's death isn't being implemented in NASCAR.

Although NASCAR announced Tuesday it will put "black boxes," the kind found in commercial airplanes, into its cars to study accidents, the topic of accident prevention is met with secrecy. But even if NASCAR comes through with significant safety changes, stock car racing can never be a completely safe sport.

"That crew chief and that driver, when they wake up in the morning, they got one thought in mind, they want to go faster. And … faster is sometimes not safe," said Humpy Wheeler of Lowe's Motor Speedway.


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