With the blood and tissues of the fallen still being washed off the Dover International Speedway track behind him, NASCAR president Brian France announced today that the circuit has scrapped its plan to use on-track referees. NASCAR tested a 12-man referee crew at last week's FedEx 400, but all 12 were dead before the midway point of the race.
"We had hoped the on-track officials would help keep our drivers in line and make racing more fair, but until we can find a way to make it safer and cut the mortality rate, NASCAR will not place officials on the track," said France. "We express our sorrow to the families of all the referees killed here in Delaware."
The announcement comes after several days of internal discussions. While the loss of life was staggering, the violent deaths earned NASCAR its highest ratings in history. Ratings skyrocketed during the race as word spread that referees were being slaughtered by speeding cars.
NASCAR received countless calls, e-mails, tweets and Facebook messages in support of on-track officials.
"I loved when that guy's head exploded on Tony Stewart's grill!" one fan wrote to @NASCAR.
"I hate racing but I will watch every week if you keep killing officials!" a fan wrote on the circuit's Facebook page.
The term "pink mist" was even trending on Twitter in reference to the remains of the referees' bodies when hit by a car going 200 mph.
Yet France said the popularity of the gruesome deaths does not trump the safety issue.
"We appreciate the ratings and fan interest," he said. "But we were unable to find enough people willing to ref the next race, so we can't do it."
NASCAR is reportedly hoping to get some viewers to tune in again this weekend by offering smaller scale death in the form of animals.
"At various points throughout the race, we'll release squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs onto the track," said a NASCAR source. "And on the final lap? An entire herd of deer. Needless to say, it will be awesome."