- Made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam, which are affixed to the concrete walls, the SAFER barrier system was designed by Dr. Dean Sicking and a team under his direction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The wall is designed to absorb some of the energy that is transferred during a crash. In 2003, Dr. Sicking, and his team, were honored with NASCAR's Award of Excellence for their efforts in safety.
The SAFER wall technology consists of rectangular steel tubing backed by foam blocks that is installed in front of the race track's
traditional cement walls. · The process consists of ordering the specific materials, bending the steel tubing to fit the radius of the
race track's corners, shipment and installation. · The SAFER wall project began in the fall of 2000 and remains an ongoing safety
initiative among NASCAR, the Indy Racing League, Dr. Dean Sicking and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Who is Dr. Dean L. Sicking
Dr. Dean L. Sicking, a civil engineering professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, is one of the world's leading independent researchers on barrier and crash safety. Through the years, Dr. Sicking has made enormous contributions to roadside safety research, helping advance the study of safety equipment and cutting edge development on a variety of safety innovations that have saved many lives on highways at home and abroad. His work by extension includes the study and analysis of vehicle crashes.
Much of Dr. Sicking's recent contribution to the field has come through his work at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, in Lincoln, where he has served as director since 1992. Among now-patented highway safety features Dr. Sicking is responsible for developing: energy absorbing guardrails, bridge rails, permanent and temporary longitudinal barriers, barrier end treatments, crash cushions, safety treatments for roadside draining systems, breakaway support systems and median barriers.
As part of its broader mission, Dr. Sicking's Midwest center conducts full-scale crash testing and structural testing of vehicles and safety devices. Among the center's major funding sources is the Federal Highway Administration.
Engineers on staff at the Midwest center have a wealth of specialized experience and are collectively involved in some promising research aimed at improving highway and vehicle safety. One project involves the center's ongoing work with the Indy Racing League on energy-absorption barrier systems. Other projects involve vehicle crash modeling and analysis and accident reconstruction and computer simulation of vehicle dynamics.
Key experts who work with Dr. Sicking at the center include:
" John D. Reid. Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Expert in roadside safety, automotive crashworthiness and impact engineering. Investigator on 39 projects involving totaling $4.6 million in proposals. Has published 45 technical papers and one book. Responsible for eight patents with three additional patent applications under review.
" Ronald Keith Faller. Research Assistant Professor at the Midwest facility. Principal or co-principal investigator in 53 projects funded at $3.3 million. Lead researcher on Indy Racing League barrier development project and has developed numerous bridge rail and guardrail systems adopted by many state and local governments. Authored 17 journal publications and eight articles.
" Eric Anthony Keller. Research Associate Engineer at the Midwest facility. Has co-authored several research reports on roadside safety, on such topics as guardrail systems, concrete safety shape barriers and bridge rails.
Through the work of these and other researchers, the Midwest center has published nearly 90 reports on various aspects of crash safety since opening in 1992. Subjects have ranged from energy absorption and utility poles to bridge anchors.
Dr. Sicking is personally responsible for patents on 13 separate roadside safety products in the United States, with many of his designs having been adopted in foreign countries like Australia, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada. Dr. Sicking's highway safety designs have also become the standards in those countries as well as in all 50 states domestically. And Dr. Sicking is also credited with designing barrier systems for high-speed test tracks for automakers Ford and General Motors.
Active on many national traffic safety committees, Dr. Sicking chairs the Transportation Research Board Computational Mechanics Subcommittee of the Roadside Safety Features Committee. Dr. Sicking was also a major contributor to new national crash test standards.
Dr. Sicking earned his B.S., MS and PhD degrees in engineering, all from Texas A&M University.
WHEN TRACKS GOT SAFER
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway [first track for the 2002 Indy 500]
- Talladega Superspeedway[inside retaining walls Oct 2002, outside walls Apr 2004]
- New Hampshire International Speedway 
- Richmond International Raceway [Sept 2003]
- Homestead-Miami Speedway [Nov 2003]
- Darlington Raceway [March 2004]
- Talladega Superspeedway [April 2004]
- California Speedway [May 2004]
- Lowe's Motor Speedway [May 2004]
- Pocono Raceway [Aug 2004]
- Michigan International Speedway [June 2004]
- Daytona International Speedway [July 2004]
- Chicagoland Speedway [July 2004]
- Dover International Speedway [Sept 2004 inside walls/June 2005 full]
- Kansas Speedway [Oct 2004]
- Martinsville Speedway [Oct 2004]
- Atlanta Motor Speedway [Oct 2004]
- Phoenix International Raceway [Nov 2004]
- Las Vegas Motor Speedway [Sept 2004]
- Bristol Motor Speedway [March 2005]
SAFER/SOFT WALLS NEWS
SAFER barrier tethers need inspecting: The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier system currently in place at all NASCAR facilities has significantly reduced driver injuries, but the aging nylon tethers may need to be replaced soon, according to the man who developed it. Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska, said the SAFER barriers have three major components: structural steel tubing, closed-cell polystyrene foam blocks and nylon retention tethers. The foam blocks begin to lose their effectiveness for dissipating energy after about five years, Sicking said. But the nylon tethers are also affected by the elements, particularly sunlight. And since most of the tracks installed their SAFER systems between 2003 and '04, the tethers are now in need of inspection. "Almost all of the tracks have replaced the foam once," Sicking said. "I've informally inspected the tethers during my walks around the tracks. And the tethers are now reaching a point where they need to be looked at." Sicking said tracks shouldn't be overly concerned about tether replacement, but they should be aware that it could become an issue in the future. Because the tethers help hold the SAFER barrier in place, Sicking said the failure of multiple tethers could result in a disastrous situation, particularly if it happened during a race weekend. For example, a track the size of Daytona may have several thousand tethers in place -- and if they failed, it could create chaos. The good thing? Tethers are relatively inexpensive, Sicking said. And it's something each track can budget for in advance.(NASCAR.com)(12-11-2011)
SAFER walls to be installed at the Rock: The Rockingham Speedway, which hosted NASCAR Sprint Cup races from 1965 to 2004, is taking a huge step toward once again hosting big-league racing as SAFER "soft wall" barriers will be installed next month. The energy-absorbing system will be installed in two phases, in mid-September and late December, covering all four turns of the one-mile oval and the inside of the backstretch wall. The most common estimate of the SAFER barrier cost is $1 million per mile. "Yes, that's expensive," said Robert Ingraham, the track's general manager, "but nothing's more expensive than having someone hurt." NASCAR requires racetracks to have the SAFER barrier in place before they can host one of the sanctioning body's top three national series -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or Camping World Trucks. Rockingham, then known as North Carolina Motor Speedway, hosted 78 Sprint Cup events and 42 Nationwide Series races, but it hasn't held a NASCAR event since Matt Kenseth's victory in the Subway 400 on Feb. 22, 2004. The track and the 244 acres it sits on were dormant for nearly four years before it was purchased by veteran racer Andy Hillenburg at auction on Sept. 27, 2007. Rockingham officials have had discussions with NASCAR, albeit informal, about the possibility of a Nationwide or Truck Series event returning to the track more commonly known as The Rock. A source within NASCAR, speaking on condition of anonymity, admits as much. However, the lack of a SAFER barrier had always been an insurmountable issue. Without the promise of a NASCAR race, Hillenburg wasn't confident enough to try and secure funds for SAFER installation. That now appears to have changed. Just last month, Nashville Superspeedway announced it was closing, essentially orphaning four NASCAR events, two each in Nationwide and Trucks. Since that announcement, speculation has run rampant as to where those races might end up in 2012. Next season's NASCAR schedules have not yet been finalized.(ESPN)(8-17-2011)
More SAFER at Watkins Glen? NASCAR is talking to officials at Watkins Glen International about adding SAFER barriers and reconfiguring the angle of walls in key areas around the road course following Monday's Sprint Cup race in which there were two violent crashes. The governing body also is discussing the situation with engineers at the University of Nebraska that designed the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers about what can be done to improve safety. The concerns came from two wrecks. The first involved #11-Denny Hamlin crashing head on into a tire barrier early. The one that brought the most concern came on the final lap in Turn 2. #51-Boris Said got into the back of David Ragan's #6 Ford, which bounced off a steel and tire barrier into David Reutimann's car, sending the #00 upside down into another barrier with parts flying everywhere. "We learn something every day on the possibility of what can happen,'' NASCAR president Mike Helton said on Tuesday from the NASCAR Hall of Fame where he announced plans to move the induction ceremony to January 20. "When you see something unusual like that you have to study it and see what's the better circumstance for that not to happen again. There are some areas, the engineers from the University of Nebraska have told us, where the SAFER barriers could be worse. We just have to make sure we do it right.'' Helton said NASCAR and the University of Nebraska are taking a hard look at where SAFER barriers could be beneficial and where re-aligning the angle of the walls will prevent cars from being thrown back onto the track. "There's some areas where a SAFER barrier isn't the best answer, particularly on a road course because of the uniqueness of going left and right,'' Helton said. "So far, at least from what we've been told, there are some areas that may not. That doesn't mean all the areas that need to be covered are covered, but SAFER barriers are not always the perfect answer for a situation.''(ESPN)(8-17-2011)
Richmond to Install SAFER barriers on Backstretch: SAFER barriers will be installed in time for the September “One Last Race to Make The Chase” NASCAR weekend at Richmond International Raceway. The new SAFER barriers will cover the entire length of the inside backstretch wall, which is over 900 feet. “The safety of all who attend our events, including the drivers, is important at Richmond International Raceway,” said track president Doug Fritz. “We will always be reviewing our facility and continue to look at ways to improve on the experience of our fans and the drivers.” The walls are currently being fabricated by GT Grandstands, Inc., a Plant City, Florida company. Installation of the SAFER barriers will begin as soon as they arrive in Richmond. Cheaha Construction LLC of Munford, Alabama will oversee the installation process.(RIR)(7-2-2011)
- Lowe's Motor Speedway to Install Additional SAFER Barriers: Lowe's Motor Speedway crews will install 340 feet of additional SAFER barriers along the track's inside
backstretch retaining wall prior to the May 17 Sprint All-Star Race and the May 25 Coca-Cola 600."The hard licks that Jeff Gordon and Michael McDowell took earlier this season reminded us all that bizarre and unexpected things can happen in racing," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "This additional SAFER barrier will add more protection on our backstretch for May, and we're looking at some additional improvements back there as well." Wheeler also said engineers are researching alternatives to the current opening in the inside backstretch wall at LMS, which is used during races for staging emergency response vehicles. The concrete wall just past that opening is currently protected by encapsulated polystyrene blocks that are bolted to the wall. In April 2004, more than 6,100-linear feet of SAFER barriers, which utilize foam blocks positioned behind rolled steel tubing, were installed at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That project included placing the energy-absorbing barriers in front of approximately 4,000 feet of outside retaining walls in the turns; 1,351 feel along the frontstretch quad-oval; and 796 feet on the insides of Turns 2 and 4. The original installation included 476 feet of SAFER barriers along the inside concrete wall on the backstretch, starting at the exit of Turn 2. The new installation will continue those barriers down the backstretch toward the inside of Turn 3. Tickets for the May 17 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and May 25 Coca-Cola 600 can be purchased online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling the track ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.(Lowe's Motor Speedway)(4-30-2008)
- Gordon calls for more SAFER walls at Vegas UPDATE LVMS statement: #24-Jeff Gordon, who escaped injury after crashing hard into the inside retaining wall in Turn 2 in the closing laps of Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400, called on Las Vegas Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith to add ‘soft walls’ in the area. Gordon crashed on lap 263 of the 267-lap race and hit a spot in the wall where there is a gap. “I’m really disappointed right now in this speedway for not having a soft wall back there,” Gordon said. “And even being able to get to that part of the wall shouldn’t happen. I’ve got two things to say: 'Bruton, you need a soft wall and to change the wall back there on the back straightaway'. Thankfully, Hendrick Motorsports … builds an unbelievable race car because that’s the hardest I’ve ever hit.” Greg Biffle, who finished third in the race and was behind Gordon on the track when he crashed, agreed with Gordon and said there is no excuse for having gaps in the walls. “There shouldn’t be any gaps anywhere,” Biffle said. “There should be SAFER barriers all the way around the inside and the outside of these racetracks. You can’t say we don’t have the time or money to do it because we’re coming back here next year and going to race again.”(Las Vegas Sun)
UPDATE: Las Vegas Motor Speedway statement concerning Gordon's comments: "We began evaluating that section of the speedway today. As we have done since the SAFER barrier program began, we will work with NASCAR, and we will do whatever it recommends."(3-3-2008)
- SAFER Barrier designer honored in DC: Dean Sicking, the man responsible for the development of the SAFER Barrier that is used now at all major speedways in America, is headed to the White House. Sicking will receive the National Science and Technology Medal from President Bush on July 27. The medal is the country's highest award for technological innovation. Sicking is being recognized not only for his work in motorsports, but also his innovative designs and development of roadside safety devices. It's estimated that over 150 lives are saved each year by technological advances Sicking helped implement on U.S. highways.(ESPN.com)(7-4-2007)
- SAFER for IRP: Indianapolis Raceway Park has received approval from its owner (NHRA) to install the SAFER barrier on the oval track.(Indianapolis Star)(9-2-2005)
- Track Safety to focus on the catchfence area in the near future: The elusive nature of safety technology dictates that eliminating one problem will highlight another. With SAFER barriers greatly reducing injury from wall collisions, drivers and scientists alike expect car-to-car crashes to become the focus. "I think (deaths from barrier impacts) are going to drop off the radar screen, if you count after 2001," said Dr. Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska professor who developed the SAFER barrier. The next step, Sicking said, is to look above the track's walls. DeLand's Tony Renna was killed in October 2003 when the IndyCar he was testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway went airborne in a turn and broke apart on a catchfence post. "Improving those could be a great benefit to the driver and the fan," Sicking said. "There is the potential - I don't think it's really happened yet - for some pieces of a car to go through the fence, which would be a horrible problem for the fan."(St Petersburg Times)(6-26-2005)
- New Generation SAFER installed at Indy: Installation of the second generation of the revolutionary energy-absorbing SAFER Barrier is nearing completion at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speedway crews have replaced the original Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier on the outside retaining wall of the Speedway oval’s four turns with a “Version 2” of the barrier. The
total length of the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall is 5,056 feet.
The Version 2 SAFER Barrier features these four major improvements:
●The barrier sections, which were straight in Version 1, are slightly rolled, or curved, to provide a smoother impact surface.
●A universal Styrofoam shape was created that is compatible with IndyCar Series cars and stock cars.
●Improved attachment points anchor the barrier to the existing concrete retaining walls.
●An increase of five steel tubes welded together form the barrier’s exterior instead of four used in the Version 1 barrier.
The Speedway also permanently lengthened the SAFER Barrier by 200 feet from the entrance of Turn 1 – also Turn 13 of the road course – northward into the main straightaway to add protection for drivers competing in the United States Grand Prix Formula One race. Inside retaining walls exiting Turns 2 and 4 each received 616 feet of the Version 1 SAFER Barrier that was removed from the outside walls. With the additional 1,232 feet on the inside walls, the total amount of concrete retaining wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway covered by the SAFER Barrier is 6,288 feet, or 1.19 miles. The most visible improvement is the addition of a fifth tube to the
exterior of the barrier, adding strength to the area where the gearbox of a backward-sliding IndyCar Series strikes the barrier. The SAFER Barrier first was installed on the four outside retaining walls of the Speedway’s historic 2.5-mile oval in May 2002 after
nearly four years of development by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy Racing League and University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility. NASCAR joined in the development of the project in September 2000.
IMS tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for either the Indianapolis 500, United States Grand Prix or Brickyard 400, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area,(317) 492-6700 locally or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.(IMS)(3-16-2005)
- IMS's George Honored: Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief executive officer, received the inaugural Pioneering and Innovation Award at the Autosport Awards Dec. 5 in London for his leadership in the development of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier. George received the award at the annual gala at the Grosvenor House on behalf of the creators of the SAFER Barrier from Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the leader of the Bahrain International Grand Prix circuit. This is the fourth major award that has been presented to honor George and the SAFER Barrier development team. The SAFER Barrier also received the Louis Schwitzer Award, SEMA Motorsports Engineering Award and GM Racing Pioneer Award in 2002. The SAFER Barrier was installed in all four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a pioneer in safety for drivers, cars and tracks -- in time for the 86th Indianapolis 500 in 2002. It since has been installed at more than a dozen other tracks, and the latest iteration will be installed at the Speedway in the spring.(IMS PR), see more on my Indy Track News page.(12-7-2004)
- Nashville getting SAFER: Nashville Superspeedway Vice President and General Manager Cliff Hawks says you can't put a price tag on safety. Not even if that tag is $875,000. That's how much Dover Motorsports will spend installing new ''soft walls'' at the 1.3-mile Superspeedway. Work will start this month, and Hawks said the project will be completed in time for his track's March 26 season opener. NASCAR requires all tracks that hold Nextel Cup races to have the soft walls in place for the 2005 season, but they are not mandatory at tracks where lower-division races are run. Since the Superspeedway has no Cup race, the soft walls are not mandatory. So why spend the money if they don't have to? ''Because it's the right thing to do,'' Hawks said. ''This is an extremely fast race track and we feel it is necessary to do everything we can to protect our drivers. Clearly the SAFER walls offer protection in the event of a crash.''(Tennessean)(12-1-2004)
- New Race Track Wall Barrier: Safety Innovation Technology Company, Safety Systems, Inc., (SSI) released test results that demonstrate the company's RACE WALL impact barrier offers significantly more impact protection than current products installed on most NASCAR racetracks. The R.A.C.E. Wall ™ (Restricted Air Controls Energy) was conceived out of the need to save lives and subsequently lessen vehicle damage at the same time, "in following with NASCAR'S efforts to control the costs for teams competing in this ultimate sport". The RACE Wall uses proprietary technology in conjunction with specific materials, construction methods and "outside the box" thinking to produce the second-generation softwall.
SSI developed the patented technology, and used the expert skills of Dr. Ajit Kelkar to evaluate the technology through FEA testing and computer-simulation. Dr. Kelkar, a professor at North Carolina A&T University's Mechanical Engineering Dept., stated that the initial crash results far exceeded our expectations.
The physical crash tests were performed at MGA Research Corporation in Burlington, Wisconsin and revealed at 90 mph, using NASCAR vehicles, the RACE Wall produced 40% less G forces than current technology used at most NASCAR tracks, in side-by-side comparison tests.
Tests at speeds over 140 mph are scheduled as the last testing phase and SSI researchers expect the benefits to increase with the added speed. "Our RACE Wall technology lets track owners install a more practical mechanism to primarily protect drivers, who are so important to NASCAR and their fans, "said Tim Smith, Chairman of SSI. "I can't imagine any track owner not wanting the safest track available". Video of the crash test is available for media outlets only. For video information contact John Mims (336) 841-0600.
For more information please contact Tim Smith at (336) 889-6581, or for email DWITCHER@ec.rr.com or see their site:
- SAFER at Dover and Bristol in 2005: NASCAR officials say they expect installation of the Safer barriers by next spring at Dover Internatonal Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. The delay at Bristol has been in developing techniques to deal with the cross-over gate. The delay at Dover concerns the boilerplate outside walls, which have to be replaced with concrete walls before the Safer barriers can be installed. "The University of Nebraska has been working on the gate issue, and it's all coming really good," NASCAR's Robin Pemberton said. "I think they're pretty close to being done at Bristol. They're ready to put them up." Both Bristol and Dover have cross-track gates. However, a number of tracks have stretches of soft walls that are not seamless, so it's not completely clear why the cross-over gate - in the middle of the frontstretch here and the middle of the backstretch - should be a particular issue. At the least, soft walls should have been installed in the corners, given the hard hits drivers take into the outside walls. "They need to do some reconfiguring on the walls as they exist now here to be able to support the Safer barriers," Pemberton said. "We have seen some very hard hits here."(Winston Salem Journal)(9-27-2004)
- SAFER Barriers Up And Ready For Action at Martinsville: Construction work wrapped up early this week on SAFER Barriers at Martinsville Speedway. They will be in use first for the Bailey's 300 Late Model Stock Car race on October 10, followed by the SUBWAY 500 weekend October 22-24. SAFER is an acronym for "steal and foam energy reduction." "We always want our competitors to be as safe as they possibly can be and the SAFER barriers were the next logical step in that direction," said Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell. "I know firsthand from my Late Model Stock experience that hitting the wall is never fun, but at least with the SAFER barriers we have lessened the impact of the hit." The SAFER barriers at Martinsville Speedway cover just over a half mile. They extend 832 feet on the outside wall of the first and second turns; 640 feet on the outside of the third and fourth turns; 706 feet along the inside front stretch wall; and 569 feet along the inside of the back stretch wall. There were a total of 3.02 miles of tube steel used in the project and a total of 364,000 pounds or 182 tons of steel. Almost 9,000 pieces of hardware and fasteners were used. The Elrod Corporation of Mooresville, IN, was the primary contractor on the project. The installation of the SAFER barriers was one of several off season projects at Martinsville Speedway, including repaving of the racing surface, expansion of souvenir area and the first stage of work on the relocation of the railroad track which parallels the backstretch.(Martinsville Speedway PR)(9-23-2004)
- Indy may get newer SAFER: Indianapolis Motor Speedway will get the latest version of the SAFER barrier before next season if the budget request of track president Tony George is approved. Top Speedway officials approve budget items in the fall. "What we have is fine, but I'd like to have the newest thing," George said this week. The Speedway developed the energy-absorbing barrier along with the Indy Racing League and NASCAR through the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Lincoln, Neb. The first concrete-covering system was installed at IMS before the 2002 Indianapolis 500. Since then, 19 tracks have purchased the SAFER system, which combines steel tubes and foam pads to cushion the impact of race cars. The new design, in place at most tracks, has a single tapered foam piece, five steel tubes instead of four and connecting straps rather than cables. "It's just an evolution of the system based on the things we've learned since that first barrier went up at Indy," said Ron Faller of Nebraska's facility. The opportunity to change systems is available to the Speedway now because the track is being repaved for the first time since 1995. The SAFER barrier has been removed and won't be reinstalled until next spring. George did not say how much the change costs. The SAFER barrier system is manufactured by the Elrod Corp. of Mooresville, Ind. Even if the Speedway does not add the new SAFER design in 2005, George said additional areas of the track's walls will be covered. Included will be the spot where Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher hit during the U.S. Grand Prix in June. Schumacher missed the current barrier in the oval's first turn by about 50 feet. Also to be addressed are inside wall positions at the exit of the second and fourth turns, George said. "Even if we don't get the new system for (2005), the current system can be tweaked," he said.(Indianapolis Star)(9-3-2004)
- SAFER at Atlanta: The installation of the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier walls at Atlanta Motor Speedway is expected to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 7, in time for testing for the speedway's fall race weekend, the Oct. 29-31 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. The project, which is being headed by SMI's contruction manager, Randy Wray, will be completed at night to accommodate the daytime track activities already scheduled. Working with the same crew that has already installed the SAFER walls at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wray estimated that the project would take 2½ to 3 weeks to complete. Atlanta Motor Speedway will install approximately 7,450 linear feet of the SAFER barrier, which will cover approximately 75 percent of the speedway's outer walls. The SAFER barrier system will be placed outside of all four turns, as well as inside turn 2. The SAFER barrier system is made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam, which are affixed to a speedway's concrete walls to absorb some of the energy that is transferred during a crash. Wray said the wall has already been completely fabricated, and it is being galvanized. It will start arriving at the track either later this week or early next week in about 25 truckloads.(AMS PR)(8-17-2004)
- Construction crews complete installation of SAFER barriers at LVMS: Las Vegas Motor Speedway has completed the installation of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers. LVMS installed
6,107 linear feet of the SAFER barrier, covering approximately 75 percent of the 1.5-mile superspeedway's outer walls. The SAFER barrier system has been placed outside of all four turns as well as most of the front straightaway. The construction project was handled by Behade Builders of Las Vegas. The SAFER barrier system is made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam that are affixed to a speedway's concrete walls to absorb some of the energy that is transferred during a crash. The first event to be run with the SAFER barriers in place will be the Las Vegas 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Champ Car World Series doubleheader on Sept. 25. Tickets are available for both events at www.lvms.com.(PR)(8-12-2004)
- SAFER at Pocono - done: SAFER was recently completed in Pocono Raceway's turns 2 and 3 in time for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at the 2.5-mile triangular track. When the series was here in June for the Pocono 500, only turn 1 had the SAFER walls.
- SAFER at Chicago:
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway have the SAFER Barrier in place for the July 9-11 NASCAR weekend?
Answer: "We made the decision quite a few months ago that Chicagoland Speedway would install the SAFER Barrier. Quite frankly, the studies show that it is indeed safer. We try to improve the experience for everyone, especially the competitors. And, if part of that is making the race safer than we need to look serious at that. The SAFER Barrier was the obvious choice for us to improve the safety for the drivers. That's why we made the decision months ago to move forward with it and we are now in the process of making that happen. It will be in place before the Tropicana 400, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway," said Matthew Alexander VP/GM of Chicagoland Speedway.(Chicagoland Speedway PR/Site)
AND beginning Monday [June 14], the work crew from Elwood, the founding company of soft walls, will be at the speedway doing the installation. With the Tropicana 400 scheduled July 11, the project should be finished in plenty of time.(Herald News)(6-10-2004)
- SAFER at Daytona...go watch: A specialized construction crew will begin hanging so-called "soft walls" on the turns around the Daytona International Speedway starting Monday. The walls will give when struck by a race car, helping protect the driver from serious injury. The soft walls are hardly soft -- they are made of steel and sheets of hard foam. But when the $2.3-million job is finished, in time for the July 3 Pepsi 400 and related races, the track's most dangerous walls will be much more forgiving than the existing concrete. The Speedway and its owner, International Speedway Corp., are paying Indianapolis-based Elrod Fabrication to install the SAFER barriers over the next few weeks. Jeff Elrod, president of the fabrication company, said the absolute completion date is June 26. The SAFER barriers will front the outside concrete walls in Turns 1 through 4 and in the tri-oval, the dogleg turn at the start-finish line. Elrod will also install SAFER on the inside walls exiting Turns 2 and 4.
Want to Watch? Race fans and engineering buffs may observe the installation of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier at Daytona International Speedway. The Speedway will open a section of the Oldfield Grandstands at no charge. The track also runs sightseeing trams through the infield everyday. Call the Speedway for tram ticket information at (386) 253-7223.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(6-6-2004)
- Pocono getting SAFER UPDATE in phases: been told Pocono Raceway is having SAFER installed this week. Not sure what parts of the track, but hear it'll be done by the time the Cup teams race there on June 13th.(6-1-2004)
UPDATE: At 5:00pm/et Tuesday, workers began installing the SAFER barrier system. The plan is have turn one completed for the Pocono 500 and turns two and three completed for the Pennsylvania 500 on August 1. "Guys have hit them a bunch and walked away from it," said Pocono Raceway owner Dr. Joseph Mattioli. "Everything seems like it's gonna work. We've heard no complaints about it." The system, designed by Dr. Dean Sicking of the University of Nebraska, is made up of steel tubs and pads of hard foam. They are affixed to existing concrete walls and are meant to absorb some of the energy when a car hits the wall. "It's a very simple system," Mattioli said. "I think that's what makes it good is the simplicity." The process at Pocono Raceway began about two months ago when the track was surveyed. Once the specific materials are ordered, the steel tubing is bent to fit the radius of the track's corners. The material is then shipped and installed. Extra material is provided to the track in the event it is damaged during a crash. The SAFER wall will stick out about two to three feet from the existing wall. The exact length of each wall and cost of the project was unavailable.(Citizens Voice)(6-5-2004)
- SAFER being installed at MIS: Michigan International Speedway officials announced that the installation of the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) wall system is currently under way at the two-mile oval. The project began on Monday, May 17, and is scheduled to be completed in time for the June 18-20 DHL 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race weekend at MIS. The SAFER walls will run continuously for 2,738 feet from the entrance to turn one through the exit of turn two and 2,822 feet from the entrance to turn three through the exit of turn four. Additional SAFER walls with a length of 2,424 feet will run along the inside backstretch wall, as well as a 300 ft section along the wall on the inside of turn four near the entrance of pit road. From start to finish, it will take approximately three to four weeks to install the system at MIS. Reserved seats are still available for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series DHL 400 on Father's Day, June 20, along with the June 19 ARCA RE/MAX Series Flagstar 200. For tickets and information regarding the DHL 400 weekend, log on to www.MISpeedway.com, or call the Michigan International Speedway Ticket Hotline at 1-800-354-1010.
The barriers will run continuously for 2,738 feet from the entrance to turn one through the exit of turn two and 2,822 feet from the entrance
to turn three through the exit of turn four. Additional barriers with a length of 2,424 feet will run along the inside backstretch wall, as well as a 300 ft section along the wall on the inside of turn four near the entrance of pit road. SAFER wall specifics at the Michigan International Speedway:
Total length * 8,284 total feet (2738 feet through Turns One and Two, 2,822 through Turns Three & Four, Inside Turn Four 400 feet, Inside
wall of backstretch 2,424 ft)
Height * 40 ½ inches
Tubes * 5 - 8" x 8" tubes per section.
Sections * Each SAFER wall section is 28 feet long. Some sections are shorter at the end of the turns.
Steel * 3/16" guage. 41,409 linear feet of steel tubing (Approximately eight miles). Weight of the steel tubing is approximately 500 tons.
Styrofoam * 22" * 22 ¼" thick and 40 ½" high. 1,480 pieces of Styrofoam total.
40,265 sq ft of 2" thick Styrofoam
The SAFER walls extend 30" from the old wall.(Michigan International Speedway PR)(5-19-2004)
- 2004 Pocono Raceway Award Recipient: The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility [
mwrsf.unl.edu], headed by Dr. Dean L. Sicking has been named the 2004 recipient of Pocono Raceway's Bill France Award of Excellence. The Pocono Raceway Bill France Award of Excellence has been presented annually to the person, corporation or organization that has made outstanding contributions to the sport of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing. This prestigious award, first presented in 1977, is dedicated to the inspiration of Bill France Sr., founder of NASCAR.
The 2004 recipient is unique in that it is not a driver, a team owner or a sponsor. This year's recipient is a university roadside safety research team headed by a Ph.D. in civil engineering. The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln,
headed by Dr. Sicking, is responsible for the development of the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier system. The SAFER barrier system is designed to absorb some of the energy that is transferred during a crash. NASCAR recently announced that the SAFER barriers system will be installed at all recommended oval tracks by the 2005 racing season. Dr. Sicking is one of the world's leading independent researchers on barrier and crash safety. His research has led to 21 U.S. patents on roadside safety structures. Under his guidance the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility has developed into one of the premier roadside safety research laboratories in the world.
Dr. Sicking and the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility have come to be recognized as a global leader in the development of crashworthy safety structures. Their research has developed numerous safety features that have been adopted nationwide and several that have been adopted internationally. These safety features have saved the lives of countless motorists across the nation over the last decade.
The Pocono Raceway Bill France Award of Excellence, a beautifully sculptured and highly polished piece of anthracite coal mined in
Pennsylvania, will be presented to Dr. Sicking and the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility team at an award ceremony on Saturday, June 12, 2004. This ceremony is part of the festivities leading up to the June 13, 2004 POCONO 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway. Dr. Sicking and his research team join the prestigious list of Pocono Raceway's Bill France Award of Excellence winners. Tickets for the June 13th POCONO 500 are available by calling the Pocono Raceway ticket office at 1-800-RACEWAY or visiting
www.poconoraceway.com.(Pocono Raceway PR)(5-6-2004)
- SAFER at Texas by June: Installation of the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers is slated to begin the week of May 10 at Texas Motor Speedway. The project is scheduled to take two to three weeks and will be completed in time for the June 12 Bombardier 500k Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event. Approximately 6,300 linear feet will be installed around portions of the 1.5-mile track at a cost of approximately $1.7 million to complete. The work will be done at night to avoid conflicts with the speedway's full schedule of on track events.(TMS PR)(4-27-2004)
- SAFER at Vegas for Sept race: Las Vegas Motor Speedway will install the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers prior to the Sept. 25 Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, LVMS general manager Chris Powell announced today. "Participant safety is of utmost importance," Powell said. "Many great strides have been made to improve driver
safety over the years, and we believe the SAFER barrier represents one of the most significant improvements in a long time in motorsports." The speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. has placed Wes Harris, SMI vice president of development, in charge of the project for all SMI tracks. Installation is expected to begin in early August. The project is expected to take approximately six weeks to complete. The SAFER barrier system is made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam that are affixed to a speedway's concrete walls to absorb some of the energy that is transferred during a crash. The SAFER wall project began in the fall of 2000 and remains an ongoing safety initiative among NASCAR, Dr. Dean Sicking and the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska. Based on measurements by engineers, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will install 6,107 linear feet of the SAFER barrier, covering approximately 75 percent of the speedway's outer walls. The SAFER barrier system will be placed outside of all four turns as well as most of the front straightaway.(LVMS PR)(4-8-2004)
- Atlanta to install SAFER: Atlanta Motor Speedway will install the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier walls prior to the Oct. 29-31 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, AMS President and General Manager Ed Clark announced today. The speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. has placed Wes Harris, SMI vice president of development, in charge of the project for all SMI tracks. Exact dates for the installation have yet to be determined, but construction on the steel-and-foam walls is not
expected to begin until late summer. The project is expected to take approximately two weeks to complete. Based on measurements by these engineers, Atlanta Motor Speedway will install approximately 8,000 linear feet of the SAFER barrier, which will cover approximately 75 percent of the speedway's outer walls. The SAFER barrier system will be placed outside of all four turns, as well as inside turn 2.(AMS PR)(4-1-2004)
- SAFER causing remeasuring of tracks? Size does matter -- especially when it comes to racetracks. And with the SAFER barriers installed at many NASCAR tracks, the dimensions of the circuits have changed. "We're going to have to remeasure all the tracks where we've put in the SAFER wall," says Jim Hunter, V.P. of corporate communications. "I don't have any idea how it will affect it, but I'm sure it will affect it to some degree." The SAFER walls at Darlington come out 30 inches from the outer wall. NASCAR measures tracks 15 feet in from the outer wall, but it doesn't expect changes in dimensions to be significant enough to affect records.(FoxSports/Sporting News)(3-24-2004)
- Lowe's to have SAFER for May Races: Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte now plans to have steel and foam energy reducing barriers, known as SAFER barriers, installed for its NASCAR events in May. The track originally planned to put the barriers up in time for its NASCAR weekend in mid-October. The Charlotte Observer was first to question Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s timetable for the barriers, in early March at Las Vegas, because at that time none of the company's tracks were on the schedule. Monday, SMI Chairman Bruton Smith told the Observer the decision to go ahead immediately was made that morning. "Our engineers have said we could get this done," he said. "So I said, 'Let's go to work.'." Jeff Elrod, whose Indiana-based company will work with the speedway's staff on an accelerated installation schedule, ordered enough rolled steel Monday afternoon to cover about 6,100 feet of concrete walls at the 1.5-mile track. "We just received the final go on this project, and we're mobilizing our office to get it done in time for their events in May," Elrod said. Lowe's Motor Speedway's racing schedule includes a NASCAR Truck Series race and qualifying for the Nextel All-Star Challenge on May 21. The all-star race follows on May 22. Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for May 27, with a Busch Series race on May 29 and the 600-mile Nextel Cup event on May 30. Installation of the SAFER barriers at the Charlotte track will be among the most extensive at any track where the barriers have been employed. Lowe's Motor Speedway will put the barriers in front of nearly 4,000 feet of outside walls in its turns, 1,351 feet of the outside wall in its fronstretch trioval as well as 796 feet of walls on the inside of the track off of Turn 2 and Turn 4. Sources have told the Observer it costs between $250 and $300 per linear foot to install the barriers, meaning the project could cost up to $1.83 million. SMI will use its engineering and construction staff to do part of the installation and has arranged to have preparation work on the steel done locally to reduce the overall cost. Elrod said some final surveying must be done before installation begins. Once the work begins, he said it would take about three weeks of on-track work to get the barriers in place.(ThatsRacin.com)(3-23-2004)
- SAFER Installation underway at Talladega: Installation of SAFER Barriers is currently underway at Talladega
Superspeedway, speedway officials announced today. Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers are scheduled to be in place
around the 2.66-mile tri-oval in time for the April 22 – 25 Aaron’s Dream Weekend. The SAFER barrier at Talladega Superspeedway will be installed in Turns 1 & 2, Turns 3 & 4 as well as the tri-oval and inside retaining wall on the backstretch. The SAFER wall at Talladega Superspeedway will be 40 inches high, and extend through the turns and tri-oval about 30 inches from the wall. In 2002, SAFER barriers were erected in the inside retaining wall at the exit of Turn 4 and the entrance of Turn 1 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The Aaron's Dream Weekend, April 22-25, marks the return of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series to Talladega Superspeedway for 2004. You may purchase tickets by calling the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office at 1-877-Go2-DEGA Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (CT), Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (CT) or by visiting us online at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com. For our hearing impaired guests, call TDD # 1-866-ISC-TRAK (866-472-8725). You may also purchase tickets at the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (CT).(Talladega Superspeedway PR)(3-23-2004)
- SAFER to be installed at Texas this summer: Texas Motor Speedway will install the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers this summer in an effort to improve driver safety. "This is step in the right direction where safety is concerned," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "The safety of both our drivers and fans is always our number one priority and we will take every possible precaution to ensure that. "We are currently wrapping up a $400,000 upgrade to our crash fence. We have reinforced the existing fence on the outside crash wall and have constructed a new 10-foot fence on top of the inner crash wall." The speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. has placed Wes Harris, SMI vice president of development, in charge of the project. Exact dates for the installation have yet to be determined. The steel tube and foam SAFER barrier was developed by the University of Nebraska, the Indy Racing League and NASCAR. John Rohde, associate professor of civil engineering for the University of Nebraska, met with speedway officials in late January to do a site survey. "The meeting went quite well," said Gossage. "We are all on the same page here. We want to do all we can to improve safety in an inherently dangerous sport."(TMS PR)(3-23-2004)
- SAFER News - Martinsville coming too: There's been some discussion to the pace of the rollout of the SAFER barriers, and the order in which tracks are having the barriers installed. Hunter told TFR today that the pace at which SAFER barriers are being installed has nothing to do with venue, but rather logistics. Debate came to the SAFER barrier project when the two fastest venues of the tour, Speedway Motorsports Inc.s' Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, noted they'd not have the energy absorbing walls installed in time for their 2004 NASCAR events. "There was absolutely nothing to any of the stories on the timeline," Hunter said. "We set up a schedule for [Dr. Dean] Sicking [of the University of Nebraska] and his folks to visit the different tracks. [NASCAR's] Gary Nelson, Dean Sicking and his group met with a representative of SMI, Wes Harris. I guess he's sort of their construction manager and in the process I think the communication got lost and then with Humpy saying that he wanted his engineers to look at it and all those kinds of things, everybody is on board with the SAFER walls." Martinsville Speedway, a half-mile track located in Southern Virginia, will also not have SAFER installed for their spring event, but hopes to have them installed for their October event. Martinsville poses a problem for the engineers due to its single point of entry (a cross-over gate located in Turn 4) to the infield area. Sicking's engineers have got to devise a solution where the SAFER can be installed to the moveable gate. "I think you'll see them at most of the tracks this year and certainly in 2005," said Hunter. "I don't think there's anybody out there that doesn't agree that the SAFER walls are the way to go."(Ford Racing)(3-22-2004)
- Dover to get SAFER walls: The SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) wall system will be installed at Dover International Speedway's high-banked, one-mile track. It is expected to cost about $1 million to install SAFER barriers at Dover. The walls are designed to absorb energy and decrease the chance of injuries to drivers in the event of an accident. They are expected to be in place possibly in time for Dover's next NASCAR race weekend, June 3-6. If that doesn't happen, the project could be completed in time for Dover's September races. The wall is installed in front of the race track's existing walls. As they did at Darlington Raceway, the walls will take away 2 1/2 feet of race track at Dover. That should not be a problem since there is no high groove for drivers to use. A team of NASCAR engineers visited Dover six weeks ago to assess the track for the project. Dover has never had a driver fatality during a NASCAR race at its facility. Several drivers have been injured over the years, sustaining broken bones and concussions, after coming into contact with the track's walls. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was briefly knocked unconscious when he hit the outside wall in the second turn in last September's MBNA America 400. The accident looked harmless, but Earnhardt said the data recorder in his car revealed he had suffered a tremendous impact.(in part from the Delaware News Journal)(3-21-2004)
- More on SAFER at Lowe's: None of SMI's six tracks (Atlanta, Texas, Las Vegas, Bristol, Lowe's and Infineon) has the barrier, but Humpy Wheeler, president of SMI and Lowe's Motor Speedway, has said he wants to have SAFER at the Concord,
N.C., track for its back-to-back weekends in late May. Track spokesman Jerry Gappens said yesterday the proposed barrier for Lowe's would be bolted to the outside wall through four turns and the frontstretch - a length of more than 5,000 feet (compared to 1,197 at
Richmond). The project's size, coupled with the fact only one company is equipped to handle SAFER installation and is tied up with other
tracks, could make scheduling the installation difficult. NASCAR decided late last year to put the barrier at all recommended tracks by 2005 and commissioned Sicking's group for surveying. All of the SMI tracks were visited in recent months, including Texas in January and Vegas in early March. Sicking said a meeting with SMI engineers to discuss findings and recommend implementation took place about two weeks ago, a few days after the Vegas visit.(in part from the Richmond Times Dispatch)(3-19-2004)
- Kansas to get SAFER: Kansas Speedway officials announced today that SAFER barriers will be installed at the track in
the coming months. Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers are scheduled to be in place around the 1.5-mile trioval in time for the track's Banquet 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race Oct. 10. "Soft wall technology is vital to the safety of the drivers who race at Kansas Speedway, and we are proud to be one of the growing number of ISC tracks that recognizes this," speedway President Jeff Boerger said. "I applaud NASCAR for encouraging racetracks to install the system." Scientists at the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility developed the SAFER barrier, which absorbs some of the energy in a crash and lessens the impact on a driver. The SAFER barrier at Kansas Speedway will be made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam and affixed to the track's retainer wall between Turns 1 and 2, and Turns 3 and 4. The SAFER wall at Kansas Speedway will be 40 inches high, and extend through the inside of the turns about 30 inches from the wall. From start to finish, it will take engineers about three weeks to install the barriers.(Kansas Speedway PR)(3-16-2004)
- SAFER at Atlanta and Lowe's in the Fall UPDATE Lowe's in May?: SMI's Humpy Wheeler and Dean Sicking, who created the SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, said there's not enough time for Lowe's Motor Speedway to have the safety devices before the May 22 all-star race and the May 30 Coca-Cola 600. Wheeler said he expects Atlanta, which had a top qualifying speed of 194.295 mph last year, and Lowe's Motor Speedway will have the barriers for their October races. Wheeler said he questions whether the barriers are needed at Bristol, a high-banked, half-mile track. Kyle Petty suffered rib injuries when his car spun and hit driver-side into the wall at Bristol a year ago, and he missed one start.(Roanoke Times)(3-14-2004)
UPDATE: Humpy Wheeler says he's accelerated the soft walls installation program "and I hope to have them in before the 600" at his Charlotte track in May, "but that will be pretty tough right now, because we've got six or seven tracks in front of us. We will definitely have them in for the 500 in October, and I'm sure we'll have them in here in October unless they run into a shortage of materials. This all puts a burden on the people putting the walls up because this will only be done one time and they're really the only game in town. We'd looked at doing it ourselves and trying to find something better, but we've just run out of time. It's not rocket science to install, but if you haven't done it before, it will take you a while. And it will take 14 to 21 days to install. When you add in rain, you have to consider shutting things down for a month. So we're going to try to do it at night. We're going to get there, it's just going to take a while. We really didn't think we'd do all this until 2005, but it's the thing to do now. I don't know whether we'll do it at Bristol or not."(in part from the Winston Salem Journal)(3-15-2004)
- SAFER at Vegas in 2005: Las Vegas Motor Speedway will install the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) wall system at its 1.5-mile oval in time for next year's NASCAR Nextel Cup race, Speedway Motorsports president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said Thursday. The SAFER wall system was designed by Dean Sicking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and first installed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. The energy-absorbing barrier consists of rectangular steel tubes and pads of hard foam, which are affixed to the existing concrete walls on either the inside or outside of the track. Wheeler said the SAFER system, which is designed to reduce forces incurred by a car in an accident and increase driver safety, likely would be installed on the outside walls, through the turns, at LVMS. "We've had them on the inside walls at Lowe's (Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.) for several years," Wheeler said. "Our biggest impacts at Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta have come on the inside (walls) and we've been more sensitive to that than we have been outside walls. That's probably not going to be the case in Vegas because it's a little flatter track. The safety record there has been very, very good." Wheeler said the SAFER system likely would be installed at LVMS later this year and that all SMI oval tracks -- with the exception of Bristol Motor Speedway -- by next year. In addition to LVMS, SMI owns Lowe's Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway -- a road course -- in Sonoma, CA.(Las Vegas Sun)(3-6-2004)
- Darlington to install SAFER: Darlington Raceway officials announced today that installation of SAFER barriers at the historic track is under way. A recent announcement by NASCAR stated that all facilities hosting NEXTEL Cup Series events would be equipped with the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction system by January 2005. "Our goal is to have the SAFER barrier up at every track where it's recommended by the experts by 2005,'' said Gary Nelson, NASCAR's managing director of research and development. Darlington joins Richmond, Phoenix, Homestead-Miami, New Hampshire and Indianapolis on the list of tracks with the SAFER system. Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway have announced plans to have the barriers in place in time for their upcoming events in April and July. The SAFER barriers' installation at Darlington will be completed in time for the spring event, the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 weekend, coming up March 19-21. Dean Sicking headed the University of Nebraska team that developed the SAFER barrier, which absorbs some of the energy in a crash, lessening the impact for a driver. The barrier is made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam and is affixed to the concrete wall. In 2003, Dr. Sicking and the University of Nebraska were honored as
the recipients of NASCAR's Award of Excellence for their work. "Safety is of paramount importance in our sport, and we are pleased to
be installing the SAFER barrier at Darlington Raceway," said Andrew Gurtis, president of Darlington Raceway.(Darlington Raceway PR)(2-24-2004)
- SAFER hard to install at Darlington: Darlington Raceway was built in 1949 and is considered the most peculiar track on the NASCAR circuit, an oval with one end wider than the other, a slight kink in one of the corners, and a racing groove that sometimes runs just inches from the wall. Those idiosyncrasies have endeared themselves to fans and drivers who love great racing. But they present headaches for engineers at the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, developers of the crash-softening SAFER wall barriers NASCAR is trying to add to every track. The Steel and Foam Energy-Reduction barrier, a combination of steel tubes and polystyrene foam designed to absorb impact energy during an accident, is used at six facilities that host Nextel Cup events. Daytona International Speedway, which hosts Sunday's Daytona 500, plans to have the barrier in place before its July event. NASCAR officials want the "soft wall" system up at every track where it's practical by January of 2005. Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, will admit that Darlington is problematic. But he doesn't think the implementation of the SAFER barrier at the 1.3-mile Pee Dee facility is impossible. "We're in the process of looking at all of the high-speed ovals, and that would include Darlington," Sicking said Monday from his office in Lincoln, Neb. "Darlington is quirky. It has some problems. It may not be first up. But I think it's certainly on the radar screen." Asked if Darlington had been ruled out for SAFER use, Sicking said, "Absolutely not." While Sicking wouldn't go into specific detail about the problems Darlington presents, he said the 54-year-old facility has some hurdles in common with other NASCAR venues. At some tracks, the concrete walls to be covered by the SAFER barrier are too short. At others, the part of the wall to be covered by the SAFER barrier, or the transition areas where the barrier begins and ends, may interfere with the racing line. The latter problem is particularly evident at Darlington, where cars run right up against the wall. There's also a slight kink in the wall exiting Turn 2, which cars often make contact with while coming out of the corner, lasting evidence of Brasington's primitive method of engineering. "At some tracks -- and I think Darlington would fall into this category -- the barrier is going to severely affect the racing lines, and we've got to be very careful about where we put it, and how the transitions work," Sicking said. "Because the closer you are to the racing line, the more important the transitions are. Some of the walls, the radius changes a lot, so there's not a constant radius. These are just all complications that have to be overcome, but it just makes the installation more complicated and a little more time-consuming."
While NASCAR wants its tracks to use the system, the implementation is being left up to the individual track owners. Darlington is owned by International Speedway Corp., a track conglomerate run by the same France family that runs NASCAR. Of the six tracks that currently employ the SAFER barrier, four -- Richmond, Phoenix, Talladega and Homestead-Miami -- are owned by ISC.(Charleston Post and Courier)(2-10-2004)
- SAFER at Texas soon? Officials from the University of Nebraska will be in town this week to take the first steps in fitting Texas Motor Speedway with soft walls. While all Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) facilities are scheduled to have soft walls installed before the 2005 season, there is no specific date when the fans at TMS can expect to see them.(Sheveport Times)(1-29-2004)
- SAFER at More Tracks - Daytona and Talladega UPDATE not Lowe's: NASCAR officials said they hope to have the SAFER barrier - Steel and Foam Energy Reduction system - installed on most of their Nextel Cup tracks by January 2005. Five tracks have it on their outside walls, and Talladega Superspeedway will join Daytona as the sixth and seventh. Talladega already has the barrier on an inside wall. Daytona will put up the barriers in all of its turns. ``It's been a long process in working with NASCAR and the University of Nebraska,'' Talley said. ``As soon as we got the thumbs up, we were going to do it.'' A team at Nebraska headed by Dean Sicking developed the SAFER barrier, which absorbs some of the energy in a crash, lessening the impact for a driver. The barrier is made up of steel tubes and pads of hard foam and is affixed to the concrete wall. Even though Indianapolis Motor Speedway has had the barrier for a few years, NASCAR asked track operators to delay installation until enough testing could be done to ensure that the application was safe for the various types of tracks. Richmond, New Hampshire, Phoenix and Homestead put up the barriers last year. ``Our goal is to have the SAFER barrier up at every track where it's recommended by the experts by 2005,'' said Gary Nelson, NASCAR's managing director of research and development. ``The next step is to get the experts together with the track operators.''(Tampa Tribune)(1-23-2004)
AND Energy-absorbing barriers will be installed in time for races at Talladega Superspeedway in April and at Daytona International Speedway in July, but installation of the "soft walls" is not imminent at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte. Lowe's Motor Speedway has another type of barrier, of a design using incapsulated polystyrene, along inside walls at key points on its 1.5-mile trioval. But track president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said Friday there is still work to be done on adapting the SAFER barriers for application at high-banked intermediate-length ovals. "We are not dragging our feet," Wheeler said. "We are going to do it, and we are looking at it now." Homestead-Miami Speedway is closest to the Charlotte track, as well as to similar 1.5-mile tracks in Atlanta, Texas and Las Vegas that also are owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. The SAFER barriers were installed last year when the 1.5-mile Homestead was reconfigured with banking that varies from 18 to 20 degrees in its turns. Lowe's Motor Speedway has 24-degree banking in its turns. Wheeler said Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile track with 12-degree banking in its turns, will likely be the first SMI track to get SAFER barriers, but that won't happen in time for the track's Cup date this year on March 7. "The physics are different in a high-banked 1.5-mile track," Wheeler said. "One thing we have to be sure of is where to start with the barriers and where to stop them as they come out of the turn." NASCAR president Mike Helton announced in December that it wants SAFER barriers to be installed at all tracks where their designers recommend them in time for the 2005 season.(ThatsRacin.com)(1-24-2004)
- SAFER at all tracks by 2005: NASCAR held safety meetings with drivers and crew chiefs during both Daytona testing sessions to update them on the latest advancements. NASCAR said it plans to have the SAFER barriers installed at every Nextel Cup track where they are recommended by the start of the 2005 season.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(1-19-2004)
- SAFER at more tracks by end of 2004: NASCAR president Mike Helton, in his annual state of the sport address, said the sanctioning body's goal is to have steel and foam energy reducing (SAFER) barriers installed at every track where recommended by the end of 2004. "There may be one or two doubting Thomases," Helton said, "but it's hard to argue with the facts. The effectiveness of the new barriers is real."(ThatsRacin.com)(12-5-2003)
- SAFER at Phoenix: At some point, probably next year, Phoenix International Raceway is expected to add an energy-absorbing, soft-wall system [SAFER] in the turns at the 1-mile oval, a safety feature already at Indianapolis, New Hampshire, Richmond and Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It's fair to say that at some point in the future we want a SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, but I can't tell you the timetable right now," PIR President Bryan Sperber. Should the energy-absorbing wall be installed at PIR, it likely would be the only major modification between now and next year's Checker Auto Parts 500, scheduled for Nov. 7.(Arizona Republic)(11-4-2003)
- SAFER Barrier Named To "R&D 100 Awards": Research & Development Magazine, a leading publication covering the latest breakthroughs in practical, hands-on technology, has named the SAFER Barrier to its prestigious "R&D 100 Awards" list for 2003. The SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier, developed at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was first installed in May 2002 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The barrier was created in collaboration between the Indy Racing League and UN-L that began in 1998. NASCAR joined the effort in September 2000. R&D Magazine, based in Oak Brook, Ill., caters to scientists, engineers and administrators in the private business, public administration and academic sectors that engage in applied research and development.(Research & Development Magazine via racinnews.com)(10-13-2003)
- Past SAFER/Softwall news on my Past SAFER/Softwalls News Page