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Did Jeff Gordon Almost Die Today?

Sure seemed that way. He took a really hard crash into the wall today in the Pocono 500 when his brakes failed, but he walked away from it. In an interview soon after the crash, even Gordon sounded surprised by the fact that he wasn’t badly hurt, or even killed. “That was one of the hardest hits I have ever taken,” he said. “Between the soft wall and the seat and the safety device, I never got knocked out and I was surprised that I feel pretty good.” A few months ago, we wrote a N.Y. Times Magazine column about some of the safety innovations that NASCAR instituted after Dale Earnhardt was killed five years ago in Daytona. Among them were three of the changes that Gordon mentioned today — the soft walls, the safer seat, and the HANS neck-and-shoulder restraint. Our editor at the N.Y. Times gave the column this spot-on headline: “How Many Lives Did Dale Earnhardt Save?”