NASCAR: “We’ll wait for 1 more death….”



I was taught a life lesson during the first day on the job.


Legendary home building exec Mike Rhoads told me, “The quality you accept is the quality that sets the standard. Never forget that.


I could have forgotten it had it not been for every manager in Pulte reciting the line daily.



The quality you accept is the quality that sets the standard.



It not only applies to home building, it applies to life building.

The behavior you tolerate becomes the culture – at home, at work, on the job, in the office.



You can replace the word quality with anything:

– price

– paperwork

– foul language

– cleanliness

– attitude

– safety



Case in point: NASCAR’s acceptable safety standards when wrecks occur mid-race. It’s been nearly 4 weeks since Tony Stewart tragically killed Kevin Ward, Jr. on some dirt track at a place named Canandaigua.


One week later, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton introduced a new rule to – in theory – avoid killing more drivers.


Now, I don’t know Robin Pemberton, but I had to Google his face to get a better understanding of what incompetence looks like.

It looks like this:



Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 3.22.13 PM



First, Robin tweaked his rotator cuff patting himself on the back with this statement of self-congratulations:

As we’ve demonstrated in our history, we’re willing to react quickly to different incidents…” Pemberton said.


You mean reacting quickly to implement a no-brainer rule to ensure no one dies in some idiotic way other than driving cars 200 mph in heavy traffic?


So what is this new rule?


Drivers are required to remain strapped in their cars – unless they are in immediate danger from fire or another hazard – until safety crews arrive and can escort them from the scene. No driver is allowed to walk onto the racing surface.



This wasn’t a rule already?


The safety you accept is the safety that sets the standard.


This new rule needs teeth because… not 24 hours after Stewart ran down Ward, Jr., driver J.J. Yeley walked into oncoming traffic following his own wreck at Watkins Glen to yell at competitor Trevor Bayne.




24 hours after one guy died doing something stupid, another guy did the same stupid thing in front of a much larger audience!



Question for Robin: what happens if someone like J.J. ignores your new rule?

Answer: Nothing. There is no specific punishment.



NASCAR’s bulletin reads: as with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.




Here’s the apparent Pemberton line of thinking, “A driver died and that’s obviously bad. So we jump right on it, always quick to react with a new rule. I’ll have my assistant type something up… we’ll talk about it… and we’ll see what happens. If guys & gals don’t listen, we’ll figure something out.



Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.21.17 PM



Said another way, we’ll put in place a new rule with no clearly defined consequence & hope this dead-NASCAR-guy thing blows over in the next news cycle.



Pemberton clearly doesn’t understand what drives human behavior.

Or does he?




This will be a behavioral‑type thing, and they’ll be addressed according to each situation,” Pemberton said.



OK no.

He doesn’t.



The safety you accept is the safety that sets the standard.



What do I suggest?

Glad you asked.


It’s real simple.


You can get out of your car if it’s on fire or about to be on fire. In any other circumstance, exiting the vehicle on the track will result in a 500-day NASCAR ban plus a $1MM non-tax-deductible fine paid by the driver within 24 hours.


Black and white: Don’t get out of your car unless remaining in it will kill you.


My method, while admittedly heavy-handed, will save lives. Pemberton’s BS circumstantial behavioral suggestion approach will allow someone like J.J. Yeley or Danica Patrick to become Kevin Ward, Jr. version 2.0



Through time, you have to recognize when you get a reminder or a tap on the shoulder of something that may need to be addressed,” Pemberton said.



Umm, Robin?

Did you see the Youtube video?



That wasn’t a reminder.

That wasn’t a tap on the shoulder.



That was a 20-year old getting run over by a car on a dirt road.



The safety you accept is the safety that sets the standard.





Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: