NASCAR: SAFER barriers mean safer race
By Jenna Fryer
CONCORD ó Lowe’s Motor Speedway will have a SAFER barrier along the inside wall of its backstretch by the time the track opens for NASCAR racing next month.
An additional 340 feet of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers are being installed, and track president Humpy Wheeler said Tuesday the project will be completed in time for the May 17th All-Star Race. The track has had a SAFER barrier on part of the inside backstretch wall coming out of Turn 2, but none heading into Turn 3.
“Not that many people end up down here, but just in case they do, we want to make sure they’ve got some cushioning,” Wheeler said of the $100,000 project.
“I wanted to do this for a while. The Las Vegas deal, we saw it is the bizarre places on the race track that you’ve got to watch out for. Those are the one that will bite you.”
Every track on the Sprint Cup circuit has SAFER barriers installed wherever NASCAR told them they needed it. But there are areas that remain untouched, and there’s been an increased focus on improving inside walls and openings since Jeff Gordon crashed at Las Vegas in March.
Gordon said the accident was the “hardest I’ve ever hit” and was highly critical of the lack of SAFER barriers. He also was bothered that the angle of impact was nearly head-on because the part of the wall he hit curved inward as an access point for safety vehicles.
He later delivered a stern lecture on live TV to Bruton Smith, who owns both Las Vegas and Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“Bruton, you need a soft wall and to change the wall back there on the back straightaway,” he said. “It was a really, really hard hit. It took me awhile to be able to catch my breath and to get out. I couldn’t have hit the wall at a worse angle. I’m really disappointed right now in this speedway for not having a soft wall back there. And even being able to get to that part of the wall shouldn’t happen.”
Lowe’s Motor Speedway also has an opening along the inside backstretch wall that is used for emergency vehicles to enter and exit the track. He said the wall would be modified to make the opening less dangerous in time for the October race.
“We’re working on that now,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to have to configure the opening and make sure we can get an ambulance or a fire truck out there real quick and still solve that problem.”
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