PAST SAFER/Soft Walls News


WHAT is SAFER?

see full explanation on my Main SAFER/Softwalls Page

PAST SAFER/SOFT WALLS NEWS

  • 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)

  • SAFER done at RIR: Richmond International Raceway completed installation yesterday of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier, which is expected to reduce the forces absorbed by drivers in crashes at the 0.75-mile oval. Mounting the system, which consists of 20-foot modules of rectangular steel tubing backed by foam blocks, on the outside walls in all four turns was done Monday, a week after construction began. The 2,394-foot addition then was painted white to match the concrete walls. The last coat was applied yesterday. The project was finished in 10 days, which was right on schedule for RIR President Doug Fritz. RIR will become the first short track to have the SAFER barrier in place for an event when it plays host to a NASCAR tripleheader of the Craftsman Truck, Busch and Winston Cup series Sept. 4-6. A staff member from the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, which created the barrier, found no flaws during its implementation at RIR. The Richmond barrier has been modified slightly from the original version that made its debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2002. The improved design was tested two weeks ago at the facility's headquarters in Lincoln, Neb.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(8-28-2003)

  • SAFER at NHIS: When cars careen into the corners at the New Hampshire International Speedway next month they'll be met by safer walls, thanks to the completed installation and inspection of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction [SAFER] barriers in each of the Loudon track's four turns. The soft-wall technology comes to New Hampshire on the recommendation of the NASCAR-sponsored Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, which looked at the layout of the track and considered the danger of the corners based on speed information. The facility also studied similar figures from every other track remaining on the Winston Cup's 2003 slate, and earlier this summer suggested NHIS and Virginia's Richmond International Speedway install the SAFER barriers. Both tracks heeded the recommendation.(see full story at the Concord Monitor) AND I had some images of the SAFER barriers that are installed at NHIS sent to be, here is one, see my New Hampshire International Speedway Track News page for more.(8-27-2003)



  • SAFER Halfway done at RIR: After starting the project Monday, Richmond International Raceway is near the halfway mark of installation of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers [SAFER]. More than 1,000 feet of rectangular steel tubing had been attached to the walls in Turns 3 and 4 by yesterday afternoon, and workers were preparing Turns 1 and 2. Once the tubes are mounted on the wall, foam blocks will be placed at roughly 10-foot intervals between the 28-foot sections of the barrier and the outside wall. RIR President Doug Fritz said the system would be finished by the end of the month. Once installed, the barrier will be painted white to match the exterior walls and will be adorned by sponsor logos. "The completion date is next week, and they're on target," Fritz said. "We started exactly the day we expected, and we've already got [Turns] 3 and 4 done. Some time next week, they'll be complete. Then we'll just paint the walls and be ready for racing." RIR's tripleheader NASCAR weekend will begin Sept. 4 with the Virginia is for Lovers 200 Craftsman Truck Series race, followed by the FUNAI 250 Busch Series event Sept.5 and the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 Winston Cup race Sept.6.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(8-22-2003)

  • SAFER Installation to start at RIR on Aug 18th and No All Star Race in 2004: Richmond International Raceway will begin installation of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction [SAFER] barrier Aug. 18 and expects to have the "soft-wall" technology assembled in seven to 10 days, RIR President Doug Fritz said yesterday. That timeline would put the SAFER system in place well before the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 Winston Cup race Sept. 6. The addition of the barrier, which made a successful debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, will limit testing at the 0.75-mile oval for the Sept. 4-6 NASCAR weekend to the next 11 days [before the barrier is installed]. Teams traditionally test the week or two before an event. NASCAR prevents testing on the week of a track's race. Fritz said the same workers who constructed the SAFER wall in Indianapolis have been hired to install Richmond's version of the barrier, which reduces the forces absorbed by drivers during a crash and has prevented any serious injuries at Indianapolis since its May 2002 debut. Also RIR won't be playing host to the NASCAR's all-star race. The event, which formerly was known as The Winston, is expected to return to Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2004 in its first year with the series' new title sponsor, Reston-based Nextel.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(8-7-2003)

  • Homestead Next with SAFER? during an interviw on TNT's Pepsi 400 at Daytona qualifying coverage, Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray was interviewed and said the track plans to install the SAFER barrier, either for the races in November or for the 2004 season.
    AND Homestead-Miami Speedway will get more than just new 20-degree banking during its $10 million reconfiguration project. The 1 ½-mile oval is one of three tracks NASCAR has chosen to have soft walls installed this season as part of its safety study in a ``real-world environment.'' ''We're just waiting on NASCAR for approval of the timing,'' speedway president Curtis Gray said. NASCAR and Gray would like to have the soft walls put in before Ford Championship weekend in mid-November, when NASCAR's top three series -- Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck -- end their seasons. But it will happen by then only if engineers can quickly design a tethering system that will enable the soft walls to attach properly to the new steep banking. The walls are made of tubing that has to be custom fit to each track.(Miami Herald)(7-4-2003)

  • It's SAFER Day! NHIS will also install SAFER: New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS) has announced plans to install the SAFER barrier. "We are very pleased to announce that following Dr. Dean L. Sicking's recommendation to NASCAR, we will be installing the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier at New Hampshire International Speedway," said Bob Bahre, Chairman of the Board. Dr. Sicking, the Director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has developed the barrier that will be attached to the outside walls at NHIS. The SAFER barrier will cover all four of the track's turns. "It is our plan to have the SAFER barrier in place for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Sylvania 300 weekend this September," Bahre stated. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series Sylvania 300 weekend, from Thursday, September 11 through Sunday, September 14, will also feature the New Hampshire 200 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series; the New Hampshire 125 for the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series; and the New Hampshire 100 for the Featherlite Modified Series, NASCAR Touring.(NHIS PR).(7-3-2003)

  • SAFER at Richmond in Sept: A major safety upgrade awaits Richmond International Raceway, which will become the first short track fitted with the energy-absorbing Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier in the coming weeks. The 0.75-mile oval, where a handful of NASCAR's most violent crashes have occurred the past two years, will have the SAFER system in place for its NASCAR tripleheader Sept. 4-6 [Cup,Busch,Trucks]. The barrier, which relies on steel tubes and foam to absorb the impact of a crash, will be attached to the outside walls in two 1,100-foot sections that will cover the track's four turns. RIR President Doug Fritz said construction would begin a few weeks before the race weekend, which will feature NASCAR's top three touring series. "We're proud to be one of the first tracks to have the system installed," Fritz said. "The installation of this state-of-the-art safety system is an example of Richmond International Raceway and International Speedway Corp.'s ongoing commitment to driver safety." The "soft wall technology" has proved highly effective since being installed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2002. Several Indy Racing League and Winston Cup drivers have endured hard collisions at IMS in the past year, but there have been no serious injuries. Because the barrier originally was designed for Indianapolis' 2.5-mile oval, months of testing were required to adapt SAFER for shorter tracks. Dr. Dean Sicking, who was commissioned by the IRL in 1998 to build the barrier, led a team of researchers that conducted several tests on a replica of an RIR wall at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Lincoln, Neb. Cars travel 40-50 mph slower at Richmond than superspeedways such as Atlanta, Texas, Daytona and Talladega. But RIR crashes often are harder because its tighter turns cause awkward angles of impact and don't allow cars to scrub off speed before impact. In the past 10 months, several accidents pushed RIR up the priority list for the SAFER barrier. On May 2, Jerry Nadeau was injured critically after his Pontiac spun and slammed into Turn 1. The impact, which occurred on the driver's side, was the heaviest recorded since NASCAR began using data recorders to measure crashes by the force of gravity. Nadeau's wreck reportedly registered above 100 Gs. Three of the hardest crashes of 2002 also occurred at RIR in September. Derrike Cope's car walloped the Turn 1 wall at about 150 mph in the Busch race, and Sterling Marlin said he took the most wicked hit of his life in a Turn 3 pileup in the Cup race. Those wrecks reportedly topped 60 Gs, and a Craftsman Truck crash involving Bobby Hamilton registered 58 Gs. NASCAR President Mike Helton recently said the goal is to erect the SAFER barrier at several tracks by next spring. New Hampshire International Speedway, a 1-mile oval where Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr. were killed in separate crashes in 2000, likely is next to implement the SAFER barrier, possibly for its Sept. 15 Winston Cup race.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(7-3-2003)

  • SAFER at MIS: The tire wall lauded by Brett Bodine at Michigan likely will be replaced by the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction barrier in the near future. NASCAR President Mike Helton said in a prerace TV interview the sanctioning body is anticipating a report from Dr. Dean Sicking, who is leading a research team that is working to fit the SAFER system to shorter tracks such as Richmond International Raceway. "We're very close, within a matter of weeks, and certainly two to three months, that Dean Sicking and the folks at Nebraska will give us the information to go a bit deeper," Helton said.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(6-16-2003)

  • SAFER news: A decision on when the SAFER energy-absorbing barrier can be used could come in a couple of weeks, Dean Sicking said. Sicking, the director of Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, has been working with NASCAR on the wall. The steel and foam barrier is intended to reduce the energy in a crash, lessening driver injuries. Sicking and his staff have tested a barrier intended for tight radius tracks, such as Richmond and New Hampshire, among others. Jerry Nadeau suffered head, lung, rib and shoulder injuries in a crash at Richmond on May2, a few days before the most recent barrier test. Nadeau, who is undergoing rehabilitation, was the fifth driver to be injured at Richmond in the past year. Sicking said the results of last month's test are being studied. If there aren't any problems, Sicking could give NASCAR approval for tracks to begin installing the barriers. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only NASCAR circuit with the barrier in all four corners. Talladega Superspeedway has the barrier on a portion of its inside wall along the frontstretch.(Roanoke Times)(6-11-2003)

  • No SAFER for NHIS in July: New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre was hoping the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction [SAFER] barrier system would be in place for Loudon’s first NASCAR Winston Cup race of the season, the New England 300, on July 20. But it’s not going to happen. The earliest the Magic Mile could see the SAFER system in place would be for its second race (the Sylvania 300 in September), according to Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications. Although NHIS was hoping to get the walls in place for the New England 300, Bahre doesn’t want to rush things. He said he will do anything to improve the safety conditions at the track, but wouldn’t put the walls in until he gets NASCAR approval.(Foster’s Sunday Citizen )(6-6-2003)

  • No SAFER at New Hampshire this year? It does not appear as if the energy-absorbing SAFER barrier will be in place at New Hampshire in July when the Busch and Cup series race there. Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president, says analysis of a crash test done on the barrier earlier this month should be complete within two weeks. Hunter says installation of the SAFER barrier should take 60 days. If so, there wouldn't be enough time to install the barrier for the New Hampshire race, which is less than two months away. If that happens, the next race that might have the barrier could be the Richmond race in September. The barrier helps reduce the amount of energy a car -- and its driver -- experiences in a crash. Less energy should mean less severe injuries. Series officials had hoped to have the barrier at Richmond before the Busch and Cup series raced there earlier this month. Jerry Nadeau suffered head, lung, rib and shoulder blade injuries in a crash there and has been hospitalized since. Nadeau's crash reportedly registered a G-force spike of more than 150 Gs in the accident -- the hardest accident recorded since NASCAR began using crash data recorders last year. The hardest wreck previously had been Kyle Petty's crash at Bristol this year. That crash registered a G-force spike in the mid-80s.(News and Record)(5-26-2003)

  • SAFER Tests Goes Well: NASCAR managing director of competition Gary Nelson said Tuesday's test of the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier wall "went well," but it will be 20-30 days before engineers will tell NASCAR if it is ready to be installed on the turns of Richmond International Raceway and New Hampshire International Speedway. Engineers at the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility crashed a used Winston Cup car into a modified version of the original SAFER barrier that was fitted to a mock-up of one of Richmond's turns. SAFER, which stands for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction, was installed on the outside retaining walls at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May; NASCAR and Indy Racing League drivers said the barrier significantly cushioned the impact of crashes. The modified barrier is similar to the original but comes in much shorter sections so it can curve to fit tight-radius turns at short tracks. Dean Sicking, who is in charge of the SAFER project, and his engineers will review computer data gathered during the test to determine if it is ready. Even if Sicking approves it within 30 days, it is unlikely to be installed at New Hampshire for its July 21 Winston Cup race. However, it could be in place in time for the September races at Richmond and New Hampshire. (USA Today)(5-9-2003)

  • NASCAR attends SAFER test: NASCAR executives were in Nebraska on Tuesday to witness a crash test of the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier wall, but it will be at least a month before SAFER is approved for installation at tracks beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Engineers at the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Lincoln ran a used Winston Cup car into a full-scale mock-up of a turn at Richmond International Raceway, which is the site of the serious accident Friday involving driver Jerry Nadeau. The tests were observed by NASCAR managing director of competition Gary Nelson and technical director of special projects Steve Peterson. A NASCAR spokesman said it will take 4-6 weeks for engineers to analyze data gathered during the test. If the tests were successful, the barrier could be installed at Richmond, New Hampshire International Speedway and other tracks later this year.(USA Today)(5-7-2003)

  • Richmond, New Hampshire may get SAFER barrier AND: Jerry Nadeau's life-threatening crash during practice at Richmond and a record number of cautions in the Busch Series and Winston Cup races there raised questions about the progress of the SAFER wall system. A final test of the model for tighter-radius tracks was scheduled earlier in the week with NASCAR officials and engineers at the University of Nebraska. Though it will take 4-6 weeks to analyze the data, insiders say positive results are expected and that it is likely the SAFER system will be installed later this year at Richmond and New Hampshire -- tracks where straightaway speed is high, the corners are tight and require hard braking and there is little room or time to correct a car that gets out of shape. The SAFER system is used at Indianapolis, where data showed the energy-absorbing barrier reduced the impact of Winston Cup crashes by about 30%.(Sporting News)(5-6-2003)
    AND Tuesday morning, engineers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are expected to crash-test a modified version of the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier wall on a full-scale replica of the tight turns found at Richmond International Raceway — site of an accident that caused serious injuries to driver Jerry Nadeau on Friday. Although the test comes only four days after the crash — Nadeau is listed in "serious but stable" condition at a Richmond, Va., hospital with head, lung and rib injuries — it is no rush job. The test was scheduled before the wreck, and Dean Sicking, director of the university's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, says his team isn't feeling any additional pressure to move the project along. They already were moving as quickly as possible to adapt the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's barrier to fit other tracks. Sicking has heard accusations that NASCAR is dragging its feet on the project, but says that isn't true. "NASCAR has been encouraging us, pushing us as hard as they could," he says. "We don't see that at all."(USA Today)(5-6-2003)

  • SAFER Test Delayed: Weather has delayed another test of the SAFER energy-absorbing barrier. The test is scheduled for next week at the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety in Lincoln, Neb., said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president. Analyzing the data from the test will take about 4-6 weeks. Even if the test goes well, it might not leave enough time for the barrier to be installed at New Hampshire International Speedway before the Cup and Busch series race there July19-20. "We're not going to rush it," Hunter said. "We had hoped to have it here [at Richmond] before this race but the winter up there was so bad."(Roanoke Times)
    AND The final test of the SAFER barrier on the Richmond replica will take place on Tuesday. Results should be completed within six weeks, and a positive recommendation is expected for putting the barrier on tracks with banking angles less than 25 degrees and a corner radius less than 800 feet such as RIR. Winston Cup Technical Director Steve Peterson, who has overseen the tests for NASCAR, said the SAFER barrier developed for tighter-radius tracks has compared favorably with the results at Indianapolis, where data showed the barrier reduced the impacts in Winston Cup crashes by about 30 percent. Peterson said Sicking would like to fit two tighter-radius tracks with the SAFER barrier later this year. Richmond and New Hampshire International Speedway, a 1-mile oval where Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr. were killed in separate crashes in 2000, are the top candidates.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(5-3-2003)

  • SAFER Walls Testing: As Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month enters its second year of use of its SAFER ("steel and foam energy reduction") barrier for the Indy 500 and preliminary practice and qualifying, NASCAR continues to try to adapt the revolutionary "soft-wall" system for its tracks. Dr. Dean Sicking, developer of the system, will conduct another test of a NASCAR variation Tuesday at the University of Nebraska. Data analysis is expected to take 4-6 weeks, so there's no clear indication whether NASCAR tracks will install SAFER barriers this season. Sicking and NASCAR officials have maintained that Indy's soft walls aren't applicable to NASCAR tracks because of the wide variety in radius and banking of turns -- the areas where the barriers are needed most. When practice opens Sunday for the May 25 Indy 500, drivers will feel perhaps the most secure ever with regard to smacking the erstwhile concrete walls at the Brickyard. Last year, SAFER barriers either prevented entirely, or significantly reduced, injuries in all crashes at Indy.(Orlando Sentinel)(5-1-2003)

  • SAFER News: The director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility that developed the Steel and Energy Foam Reduction [SAFER] barrier is hoping to complete testing of the safety system on a model of a Richmond International Raceway wall within the next six weeks. Two of four scheduled tests have been completed as researchers adapt the barrier, which made a successful Indy Racing League debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.5-mile oval last May, for shorter tracks such as RIR. Last year's first test compiled crash data on a wall without the barrier to compare to the second test March 12, which involved the barrier. "We were very pleased by the performance of the barrier during that test," said Dr. Dean Sicking, head of research at the Lincoln, Neb., institute. "We didn't see anything that gave us concerns. We want to run this next test to be confident that barrier will perform when you put it on the track as it has thus far in the testing." The third test was scheduled for last week but was delayed because of snow. Once testing is finished, gathering the information from several videocameras and data recorders will take about a month. A full analysis of the testing should be ready by summer. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said last month the sanctioning body would like to implement the barrier at New Hampshire International Speedway's 1-mile track for its July 20 event and at RIR's 0.75-mile oval for the Sept. 4-6 NASCAR weekend.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(4-20-2003)

  • SAFER Test: NASCAR officials have scheduled another test for the SAFER barrier this month and don't expect to have a short-track version of the impact-absorbing wall perfected in time for the May 3 race at Richmond International Raceway.(USA Today)(4-1-2003)

  • SAFER news: NASCAR's Jim Hunter also said Thursday that NASCAR officials continue to wait on analysis on the most recent SAFER barrier test this month before deciding to approve the energy-absorbing barrier. The barrier is not expected to be ready for Richmond International Raceway's races in early May. Hunter said that it's "more likely than Richmond" that the barrier could be used when the series races at New Hampshire International Speedway in July. Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin died in separate accidents at that track in 2000. Hunter also said that he doesn't expect any rule changes for next weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway, the first restrictor-plate race since the season-opening Daytona 500.(Roanoke Times)(3-28-2003)

  • SAFER data being analyzed UPDATE no at RIR? NASCAR is awaiting results from a critical test of the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction [SAFER] barrier on a replica of a Richmond International Raceway wall. Positive results could lead to the installation of the SAFER barrier at RIR this season. The test, which involved crashing a Winston Cup car into an RIR-style wall fitted with a SAFER barrier, took place late Wednesday afternoon at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Lincoln, Neb. A group of researchers led by Dr. Dean Sicking is analyzing data from 27 videocameras and five data recorders and comparing the information to an earlier test that crashed a car into a concrete model of the RIR wall. Based on the results, more testing could be recommended or the barrier could be approved for Richmond. "It takes a little while to analyze all of it and give us their opinion," said Managing Director of Competition Gary Nelson, who runs NASCAR's safety research and development center in Concord, N.C. "They have to look at the damage profiles of the cars from both tests. There's a lot of things to figure out." Nelson said he hopes the analysis is completed with a few weeks.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(3-14-2003)
    UPDATE: A NASCAR official said Friday that it is "unlikely" that an energy-absorbing barrier will be installed at Richmond International Raceway in May although the barrier could be approved by then. A crash test on the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier was performed Wednesday at the Midwest Roadside Safety facility at the University of Nebraska. Researchers are expected to take a couple of weeks analyzing the data, said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president-corporate communications. If NASCAR approves the barrier later this month, it probably would not give Richmond officials enough time to have it installed before their Busch Series race May 2 and the Winston Cup race May 3.(Roanoke Times)(3-15-2003)

  • SAFER test delayed: Inclement weather in Lincoln, Neb., has delayed a test on an energy-absorbing barrier [SAFER] that could be used at Richmond International Raceway this spring. The test, conducted at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska, was to have been held this week. It now is scheduled for the week of the Darlington race, a NASCAR official said. If the barrier is approved by Darlington, RIR officials would have seven weeks to install the system. That should be enough time to have the barriers installed before the Busch Grand National race on May2. If the barrier is approved, other tracks such as New Hampshire International Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway could begin installing the safety devices.(Roanoke Times)(3-2-2003)

  • SAFER Update: NASCAR's Managing Director of Competition Gary Nelson said researchers at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Lincoln, NE, are hoping to complete a critical test of the Steel and Energy Foam Reduction [SAFER] barrier later this week. The SAFER system will be tested on a replica of a Richmond International Raceway wall, and positive results could lead to the installation of the barrier at RIR this season. The "soft-wall" technology made a successful debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year [and also at Talladega on some of the inside walls].(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-24-2003)

  • RIR SAFER test delayed: A critical test of the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction barrier slated for this week has been delayed by cold weather in Lincoln, NE. NASCAR Competition Director Gary Nelson said researchers at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility have completed preparations and are waiting only "until the ice melts" to test the barrier on a replica of a Richmond International Raceway wall. If the tests are successful, the energy-absorbing barriers, which have been constructed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in the past year, could be installed at RIR for the NASCAR weekend May 1-3. Nelson said researchers, led by Dr. Dean Sicking, are optimistic about completing the test within the next few weeks. "Everything is ready," Nelson said. "It's just a matter of weather. I told them, 'Call us, and we'll be there in four hours.'" Crash tests already have been completed on the wall to gather data to compare against a barrier test. Because Sicking designed the barrier for the 2.5-mile track at Indianapolis, the system wasn't readily adaptable to the 0.75-mile layout at RIR. The Indianapolis version had been modified to fit the model of Richmond's wall. "The biggest thing is the radius," Nelson said. "The steel tubes are bent, where at Indianapolis, they were straight sections stuck on the wall." A test car has been donated by Hendrick Motorsports.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-10-2003)

  • SAFER Close: Dr. Dean Sicking was hoping his SAFER barrier would be ready for use this month in the Daytona 500, two years after Dale Earnhardt's death in the race. A few bugs in the testing process made that goal unachievable, but the delay is only a temporary setback. The University of Nebraska scientist said a variable form of the collapsible barrier could be ready for use at every Winston Cup track later this season. "We knew all along that it was a long shot for the barrier to be ready for Daytona this month," Sicking said. "Everything would have had to go perfectly in testing and development for that to happen. A testing failure caused us to make some adjustments, but that's part of the process. We're very close to reaching our goals." Sicking's goal, with the support of NASCAR and the IRL, is to see the barrier in place at every major oval-track event. There isn't a set timetable for reaching that goal, but the end of the 2004 season seems reasonable. The SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) wall was used for the first time last season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. The improvement was obvious immediately, dramatically reducing the G-forces of crash impacts in practice-session accidents. The problem was that particular design of the barrier wasn't applicable for high-banked ovals or smaller, tight-radius tracks. The length and shape of the barrier sections needed to be customized for various track configurations. By midsummer, Sicking hopes NASCAR and the IRL will recommend that track operators consider installing the barrier at their facilities. Richmond International Raceway, a .75-mile oval, is expecting to become the first short track to use the barrier later this year. Other tracks will follow, and the dangerous paper clip-shaped oval at New Hampshire should be near the top of the list. (Dallas Morning News.(2-6-2003)

  • RIR Walls Next for SAFER? Richmond International Raceway is the leading candidate to be the next track to install the energy-absorbing walls first used in last year's Indy 500. The latest tests at the University of Nebraska research center have been conducted with an exact model of the 0.75-mile Richmond track's walls. Dr. Dean Sikking, who developed the SAFER barrier, is trying to determine what changes, if any, are needed for a track with tighter-radius turns than the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gary Nelson, director of NASCAR's new research and development center in Concord, N.C., said testing is expected to be completed in the next three weeks. "One more test hopefully will give us the final sign-off and then we'll start contacting tracks," Nelson said. "You'll see some quick movement once we can get past the point where we know the new wall will do no harm and can only improve the situation."(Indianapolis Star)(1-24-2003)

  • 'Softwalls' Update: NASCAR has not approved the use of any new energy-absorbing walls for the 2003 season, NASCAR managing director of competition Gary Nelson said. Nelson said the wall developers want to do more research. "The people that designed it and invented it are asking us to hold off until they complete their testing."(Daytona Beach News Journal)(1-9-2003)

  • SAFER Test: NASCAR managing director of competition Gary Nelson plans to visit the University of Nebraska this week to test a modified version of the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier that is designed to fit short tracks. Dean Sicking, the barrier's designer, and his staff have built a mock-up of the high-banked, short-radius turns at Richmond International Raceway and will hit the modified SAFER barrier with an unoccupied race car. If it achieves impact-absorbing results similar to those from the barrier's first deployment at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, SAFER could be installed at more tracks next season. The barrier was used on the inside retaining walls at Talladega Superspeedway in October.(USA Today)(11-20-2002)

  • SAFER walls to be installed at Talladega: Talladega Superspeedway officials announced today the first phase of SAFER (Steel & Foam Energy Reduction) barrier system construction on the inside retaining walls at the 2.66-mile track is under way. Plans are to have sections of the track inside retaining wall equipped with the SAFER barrier in time for the EA SPORTS 500 Weekend, Oct. 3-6, 2002. On-site construction will begin Sept. 16. The SAFER system has been approved by NASCAR for use on Talladega’s inside concrete walls where there is no banking. Dr. Dean Sicking, the lead developer of SAFER from the University of Nebraska, is continuing to adapt the system to outside walls of high-banked tracks like Talladega. The SAFER system was used for the first time this year in a NASCAR event in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This came after several years of development, including simulated crash tests by Sicking and others at the University of Nebraska’ s Midwest Roadside Facility. Representatives of Sicking’s group met with speedway and NASCAR officials earlier this summer to explain the possibilities of installing the current SAFER system in non-banked areas on the inside concrete walls of the track, just as they did at Indianapoli s Motor Speedway. “We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Sicking’s group in helping us implement this system on the inside walls,” said Grant Lynch, President of Talladega Superspeedway. “Talladega will continue its ongoing commitment to safety improvements. We’re hopeful that t echnology will be available for high-banked walls in the near future.” Talladega will have the SAFER system installed on the inside retaining walls at the exit of Turn 4 and the entrance of Turn 1.(Talladega Superspeedway PR)(9-12-2002)

  • SAFER at Talladega - Inside walls UPDATE 2: NASCAR officials are to be at Talladega Superspeedway later this month to approve installation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's impact-absorbing SAFER barrier on the track's inside retaining walls. The system could be in place for the Oct. 6 EA Sports 500 race. Most racing crashes involve the outside wall, but a barrier on the inside wall would help protect drivers from secondary impacts. NASCAR hasn't approved the system for Talladega's outside walls. Dean Sicking, SAFER's lead developer, is working to adapt the barrier, which was developed to fit Indianapolis Motor Speedway and introduced there in May, to high-banked tracks and short tracks with tight turns.(USA Today Print Edition)(8-16-2002)
    UPDATE: Ken Patterson, PR director for Talladega Superspeedway, say it's not likely that the SAFER wall, similar to the one installed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be installed in time for the October 6 EA Sports 500 Winston Cup race. "Dr. Dean Sickling of the University of Nebraska and NASCAR were out to assess the situation about a month ago," said Patterson, "but unless they have come up with a way to install it very quickly, It's unlikely that it will happen by October. We have testing and other things going on. No one has said a word to us about installing the SAFER wall. I don't know for sure about what NASCAR would have in mind and I don't know where that story came from, but I don't believe they would just show up one day and start working on the project, but I've also learned to never say never."(Insider Racing News)(8-17-2002)
    UPDATE 2: Talladega Superspeedway is expected to announce this week that it is lining about 3,000 feet of its inside retaining walls with the SAFER impact-absorbing barrier system. The project should be complete in time for the Oct. 6 EA Sports 500. The barrier system, which debuted on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's outside retaining walls in May, is designed to absorb some of the forces generated in a crash. Although the majority of racing crashes involve the outside wall, the barrier needs further development before it can be used on high-banked tracks. Installing the barrier on Talladega's inside walls could help absorb energy from secondary impacts. Testing of a modified version of the barrier suited to hang on the outside walls of high-banked tracks might begin this week.(USA Today)(9-10-2002)

  • SAFER at Daytona in 2003? The University of Nebraska researcher who headed development of the SAFER barrier system says the energy-absorbing system could be in place at Daytona International Speedway in time for the Daytona 500 next February. The steel-and-foam system first was used at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 in May and will be in place for the Brickyard 400 this weekend. The barrier would be more difficult to install on a high-banked track such as Daytona, but inventor Dean Sicking told the Dallas Morning News that he is "very hopeful" such issues will soon be overcome.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)(8-2-2002)

  • Safety barriers to be modified for use in Brickyard 400: NASCAR on Tuesday announced it would utilize the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier system currently in place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when its Winston Cup series visits the track for the Aug. 4 Brickyard 400. The "soft wall" technology, stacks of four rectangular steel tubes welded into modules 20 feet long and 38½ inches high and then backed by several inches of polystyrene foam, covers 4,240 feet of the track's outside wall, 1,060 feet in each turn. It was in place during all practice and qualifying in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 and was tested several times when drivers hit the walls, both in practice and the race. However, Dr. Dean Sicking, who researched and developed the barriers for the Indy Racing League, said the current system is not ready for other NASCAR tracks. Sicking will continue to work on the application of the SAFER barrier to other race tracks and said he hoped to conduct at minimum four more crash tests on the barrier in the coming months. Sicking said the current SAFER system in place at Indy will undergo some slight modifications before the NASCAR event. The change - the insertion of one additional energy absorbing unit every 10 feet - is primarily made because stock cars and far heavier (3,400 pounds to 1,500 pounds) than IRL open-wheel cars.(ThatsRacin.com)(6-11-2002)

  • No 'soft' wall at NHIS next month: NASCAR officials have asked the New Hampshire International Speedway to hold off on installing new "soft walls" until further testing determines they are as safe as possible for stock cars, track owner Bob Bahre said. That means the walls will not be in place for next month's Winston Cup race, and they may not be installed in time for September's race, either, Bahre said. The new walls, which consist of concrete padded with large foam blocks, already have been used in the Indianapolis 500. But stock-racing cars are heavier and act differently when hitting walls at high speed. "The engineer in charge of this wants to hold off on it, make a few changes," Bahre said. "We're gonna do what's right. NASCAR's anxious to get going on it. But he wants to develop something different." Bahre has already built up the track's apron and added a groove. He had hoped to install the soft walls, at a cost of about $300,000, before the New England 300 on July 21. At the Indy 500 earlier this year, where the soft walls where used for the first time, drivers raved about them. One car slammed head-on into a soft wall at 220 mph during a practice, but the driver escaped with minor injuries.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(6-10-2002)

  • NASCAR to meet with Indy about SAFER UPDATE: NASCAR is sending a delegation of officials Thursday to Indianapolis to meet with open wheel racing's top reps for a SAFER barriers briefing. NASCAR president Mike Helton will lead the group on the fact-finding mission. "They're going to talk to Tony George and Brian Barnhardt and those folks," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president of communications. George owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League. Barnhardt is the vice president of IRL operations. It was George and Barnhardt who decided to use the SAFER barriers, or soft walls, at IMS for the Indianapolis 500. The barriers took several hard licks during the month of May. No drivers were seriously injured at Indy this year. Dr. Dean Sicking from the University of Nebraska designed the SAFER barriers and has been analyzing crash data from IMS accidents.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(6-5-2002)
    UPDATE: Winston Cup competitors will likely get their first look at the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction [SAFER] barrier system when they compete in the Aug. 4 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dean Sicking, who researched and developed the barriers for the IRL, told NASCAR officials visiting Indianapolis on Thursday he needs to "go back to the drawing board and do testing to see what application will work" at other Winston Cup tracks. Mike Helton, NASCAR president, Gary Nelson, managing director of competition, and John Darby, Winston Cup director, spent the afternoon with Sicking and Kevin Forbes, the IMS director of engineering and construction. Sicking told the NASCAR delegation the SAFER barrier at Indy should work for Winston Cup cars even though it was designed for smaller, faster Indy cars. "Sicking told us 'This wall will work OK for us at Indy for the Brickyard,' " said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president of communications. New Hampshire International Speedway, where two drivers died after crashes 2000, wants to use the SAFER technology as soon as possible. New Hampshire's next Winston Cup date is July 21. But Hunter said Sicking needs time to tailor engineer the structure for each track. Sicking told NASCAR he needs more time to test different configurations. "Dr. Sicking does not recommend this particular wall be put up at New Hampshire," said Hunter. "Him saying we can leave this wall up at Indy, in its current configuration, is based on what went on up there in May by the IRL."(Daytona Beach News Journal)(6-7-2002)

  • New Hampshire wants SAFER walls: Bob Bahre wants to make his New Hampshire International Speedway the second track to install the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's new impact-absorbing wall, but he doesn't expect to get the go-ahead from NASCAR officials in time for the July 21 Winston Cup race. "The way it's going now, we won't have it done for the first race," Bahre says. Indy officials, with support from NASCAR, worked with the University of Nebraska to develop the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) system, which pads concrete walls with large foam blocks covered by metal guardrails. It earned positive reviews during its first real-world test in May for the Indianapolis 500. Despite several high-speed wrecks, nobody was seriously injured. Although Bahre is ready to begin construction, he says he does not believe NASCAR officials are dragging their feet on approval. A system that was designed for a 2.5-mile oval might need modifications to fit his 1-mile track.(USA Today)(6-6-2002)

  • NASCAR to go check out Indy walls: NASCAR officials hope to travel to Indianapolis this week to inspect how the energy-absorbing barriers fared in Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway became the first U.S. race track earlier this year to pad portions of its walls with an energy-absorbing barrier, which is meant to reduce the deadly G-force spikes in a crash. Speedway officials had the outside walls in all four corners padded. Gary Nelson, NASCAR's managing director of competition, says series officials want to inspect the barrier soon and talk to the University of Nebraska experts who designed the barrier. "We want to make sure that there are no surprises at the Indy 500," Nelson said. "We've talked to the designers and they're thinking of making some design changes." NASCAR officials have said that they would wait until after the Indianapolis 500 to determine their next step.(News and Record)(5-27-2002)

  • Indianapolis Star: SAFER system passes 1st test by Curt Cavin(5-6-2002)

  • ESPN: Soft walls get first test from the AP(5-6-2002)

  • Michigan and soft walls: Officials at Michigan International Speedway, along with many in the rest of the racing world, will be keeping a keen eye to the doings at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, looking at a new "soft wall" being installed at Indianapolis. The wall, called the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, is designed to take the brunt of any collision and protect drivers. The installation of the new wall, which will encompass 4,240 feet in the turns at Indianapolis, was announced Wednesday in Indianapolis by Indianapolis Motor Speedway personnel and respresentatives of NASCAR, including its president Mike Helton. The new system is actually the third soft-wall system that the Indianapolis track has tried. The first version of the PEDS (Polyethylene Energy Dissipating System) was installed inside turn four for the 1998 Indianapolis 500. An improved version was installed in 1999. "We're monitoring the situation," said Tommy Cameron, director of public relations at MIS. "I know that NASCAR and ISC have people in Indianapolis. Anytime it comes to safety, we're going to be interested in taking a look. I know that ISC has a whole construction division that is keeping an eye on this." International Speedway Corp. (ISC) is the parent company for MIS. It is possible that if the SAFER barrier system grades out as a success at Indianapolis, the system could come to MIS this year. According to the Indy Racing League, the wall in one turn at the 2.5-mile Indianapols Motor Speedway can be fitted with the energy-absorbing barrier system in two days.(Jackson Citizen Patriot)(5-5-2002)

  • New Hampshire to get 'soft walls'? Bob Bahre, who owns New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, said he's ready to install the soft walls as soon as he gets the OK from Daytona Beach [NASCAR], according to NASCAR sources. Drivers interviewed yesterday pointed to the first turn at Pocono as one obvious place for the new technology, and Ward Burton pointed to both long corners at Texas Motor Speedway as ripe for the soft walls. Burton said his crash there was more than 50 Gs.(Winston Salem Journal)(5-4-2002)

  • Wait and See for softwalls at Kansas: Don't expect to see "soft walls" in place for racing anytime soon at Kansas Speedway. Jeff Boerger, president of Kansas Speedway, said he will wait and see how the walls perform at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before making any decisions on use at his track.(Kansas City Star)(5-3-2002)

  • Texas and Softwalls? Not Ready: SAFER - Steel and Foam Energy Reduction - barrier officially unveiled at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday by Indy Racing League and NASCAR officials is not under immediate consideration for Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. "As to will we see it this year or anything, it's too early for me to tell you that," said Eddie Gossage, TMS' executive vice president and general manager. "I don't have any read on that yet." Gossage plans to confer with Brian Barnhart, the IRL's vice president of operations, on the SAFER technology before the 86th Indianapolis 500 on May 26. The IRL's first race after Indy, the Boomtown 500, is scheduled for June 8 at TMS - a high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval that offers a completely different set of variables from the relatively flat, rectangular 2.5-mile IMS oval. Gossage said he is eager to see the test data compiled by the IRL, NASCAR and the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility. "While it's appropriate to place soft wall technology at Indy - a unique track that has four 90-degree corners - it may not be as appropriate to an oval or a quadoval," Gossage said. "We also want to see it in practice. But they've made good progress, and conceptually it's a great thing. From a stock-car standpoint, I don't see this having any impact in narrowing up the turns [at TMS]," Gossage said. "From an Indy-car standpoint, they do run three-wide here. That was last year. They'll probably run four-wide here this year. A 55-foot track that loses two feet ... the last two feet in the turns is space you can afford to give up. So it's all very promising."(Fort Worth Star Telegram)(5-2-2002)

  • Indy Soft Walls - Announcement UPDATE: The energy-absorbing soft-wall system that will be unveiled today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could revolutionize driver safety in high-speed racing accidents. But the actual manufacturing of the padding configuration that covers the concrete outside walls in the track's four corners is relatively easy, project director Brian Barnhart told The Star on Tuesday. The energy-absorbing soft-wall system that will be unveiled today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could revolutionize driver safety in high-speed racing accidents. But the actual manufacturing of the padding configuration that covers the concrete outside walls in the track's four corners is relatively easy, project director Brian Barnhart told The Star on Tuesday. Officials at today's afternoon news conference will explain how the Speedway went from the tube-based arrangement that was installed in the inside of the fourth turn in 1998 to the new system. NASCAR president Mike Helton will also be in attendance today.(Indianapolis Star)(5-1-2002)
    UPDATE: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, America's most historic auto racing course, will this month serve as a real-world laboratory for a "next evolution" energy-absorbing barrier that has been installed on the outside walls of its four turns. "We believe this is a part of motorsports' future," Tony George, president of the 2.5-mile track that opened in 1909, said Wednesday as the new barrier, called the SAFER - for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction - was detailed to the media for the first time. The barrier, stacks of four rectangular steel tubes welded into modules 20 feet long and 38 1/2 inches high and then backed by several inches of polystyrene foam, covers 4,240 feet of the track's outside wall, 1,060 feet in each turn. George and Brian Barhnart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League, said the barrier will be in place throughout practice for the Indianapolis 500, which opens Sunday, and would stay there for the May 26 race itself barring unexpected problems in its performance. The Indianapolis track and the IRL have been working with of the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility on barrier research since 1998. At the IRL's invitation, NASCAR joined in the development project in September of 2000. Gary Nelson, NASCAR's managing director for competition, said NASCAR would watch the performance of the SAFER barrier during the Indy 500 activities, but would not commit to when NASCAR might install the barriers at one of its tracks. "It is really a misnomer to attach the word 'soft' to this in any way," Barnhart said, referring to the "soft wall" term often used to describe energy-absorbing barriers. "There isn't anything soft about an impact barrier for race cars."(ThatsRacin.com)(5-2-2002)

  • Installation of Softwalls at Indy starts: Revolutionary soft walls at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been approved and the installation is under way. A tour of the track revealed the outside wall of turn four has been lined with the absorptive padding developed over the past three years by Indy Racing League officials and engineers at the University of Nebraska. The third turn was receiving the same treatment Friday. Weather permitting, similar work in the first and second corners should be completed in time for a news conference Wednesday to announce the project. Speedway spokesman Fred Nation said he would not confirm the installation until then. The Speedway, built in 1909, is the first oval track in the world to install pads to cover unforgiving concrete walls, designed to absorb and dissipate energy in high-speed racing accidents. Forty drivers have been killed at the Speedway over the years, many following contact with the outside walls. The padding will cover an estimated 1,100 feet in each of the Speedway's four corners. The thickness of the padding will be approximately 20 inches in the center of the corners, tapering off significantly at the ends. The height of the soft walls is about four feet. The system was developed in partnership with NASCAR, which means it should remain on the track for stock car racing's Brickyard 400 unless problems arise in the Indy 500. Barnhart expects other national-level tracks to purchase the system for high-impact corners.(Indianapolis Star)(4-27-2002)

  • Softwall Testing - Petree 'loans' car: #33/55 Cup team owner Andy Petree wanted to help NASCAR's safety crusade for soft walls, so he donated one of his stock cars for crash research. After the crash test was completed at the Midwest Roadside Safety facility at the University of Nebraska and the car examined from top to bottom by engineers, NASCAR sent the Chevrolet back to its owner. "I've never seen a car like that destroyed in my whole life," said Petree, who has the mangled machine sitting at his Flat Rock, N.C., shop. "I'll tell you what, if that was a soft wall I'd hate to see it with a hard one." The good news is that the crash that destroyed Petree's car was exaggerated beyond a worst-case scenario, and this potentially lifesaving barrier could be in use this year.(more at the Daytona Beach News Journal)(4-18-2002)

  • Soft Walls at Indy UPDATE: In a major step toward safety, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will announce on Wednesday the installation of "soft wall" technology for this year's Indianapolis 500. A long-time research and development project with the University of Nebraska has produced a soft wall padding that will be installed in the outside turns of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is a result of a long-time project between the Indy Racing League and NASCAR with the University of Nebraska in an effort to reduce impact in the event of a crash. The soft wall padding is currently being installed at Indianapolis in an effort to improve safety for the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500.(Fox Sports)(4-10-2002)
    UPDATE: Soft-wall applications to the four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval may be made before the start of practice for this year’s 86th Indianapolis 500, said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League vice president of operations, on April 10. The decision will be made whether to install the new safety technology after two final testing sessions at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Barnhart said. Opening Day for the Indianapolis 500 is May 5. The shock-absorbing soft walls are an evolution of the original PEDS barrier that was attached to the inside wall exiting Turn 4 in 1998. The PEDS barrier was found to have some defects after it was struck at full speed by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk during the 1998 IROC at Indy race. Still, Barnhart believes the PEDS barrier possibly saved Luyendyk’s life. In 1999, Japanese driver Hideshi Matsuda, in a practice crash before the Indianapolis 500, impacted a second-generation PEDS barrier in the same location of track. With the assistance of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, the Speedway, under the leadership of president and CEO Tony George, continued its development of an energy-reducing wall attachment that could help lower the risk of driver injury in a crash. Under the direction of Dr. Dean Sicking and Dr. Ron Faller, the soft-wall program progressed to the point that by September 2000, George and Barnhart were ready to include NASCAR in the development. Because the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a multi-purpose motorsports facility, the soft wall needs to withstand crashes by 1,550-pound Indy Racing League cars and 3,500-pound stock cars raced in the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, respectively. NASCAR assigned Steve Peterson to work with the Indy Racing League Technical Director Phil Casey, PEDS designer John Pierce and the Nebraska engineers on the project. The crashes are simulated on an airport runway setup. The vehicles are propelled by cables to a creditable speed and then released to travel free the final 15 feet into the barriers. The cars, Barnhart pointed out, are heavily instrumented with impact data recorders in the front, middle and back of the chassis. Barnhart received an encouraging report April 9 after the 17th in the series of test crashes. There are two more test crashes scheduled for late April. Because of time restraints, soft walls only would be installed in each of the four turns at this time. Barnhart noted the soft walls are designed to provide their best protection at the most prominent impact areas in the corners and then taper down on the exits to allow running cars to take their normal grooves up to the concrete for maximum speed.(IMS Site) and see a story at the Orlando Sentinel: Indy tests use of 'soft' walls and from the Indy Star: IMS pleased with soft-wall tests.(4-11-2002)

  • Softwall News: Soft-wall technology for superspeedways could be as close as three years away, said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League vice president for racing operations. For nearly two years, the Indy Racing League has financed and participated in a soft-wall project at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and Barnhart said Tuesday that the project is progressing well. Barnhart said the soft walls are a derivation of another layered system used on the inside of Turn 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1998. Barnhart said that this system, though, has evolved beyond that. "We had our latest test on Friday at Nebraska," Barnhart said during the Texas Motor Speedway 2002 Media Day. "We have made lots of gains and lots of progress. We are in the fine-tuning stages at this point in time." The test on Friday was "IRL-15", the 15th time an IRL car had been pulled into the test wall at various speeds and angles.(Star Telegram)(1-24-2002)

  • Soft Wall News: Safari Associates Inc. officials say the company's Molecuthane motorsports "soft wall" is being tested by NASCAR. A corporate spokesman said NASCAR officials contacted the firm Oct. 24 and asked it to ship the Molecuthane "soft wall" to their new safety facility in Conover, N.C., for testing. The wall was delivered to NASCAR Oct. 30. When NASCAR concludes its test, plans call for it to be shipped to the University of Nebraska for additional study.(Winston Cup Scene - need sub to read)(1-10-2002)

  • Softwall Test by NASCAR: Safari Associates announced that its Molecuthane motorsports ``soft wall'', which the company successfully demonstrated on September 26th at the Indianapolis Speedrome, is now being tested by NASCAR. On October 24th, NASCAR officials contacted Safari Associates and asked them to ship the Molecuthane ``soft wall'' to their new safety facility in North Carolina for extensive testing. The wall was delivered to NASCAR on October 30th. After NASCAR concludes its in-house tests, they plan to ship the ``soft wall'' to the University of Nebraska for further study. NASCAR has encouraged Safari to continue its own testing as well. NASCAR has agreed to supply Safari with all test data including its test procedures. NASCAR and Safari Associates are working together to study the use of Molecuthane for ``soft walls'' and applications on and inside the vehicles, wherever high-energy dampening is required for safety or comfort.(Yahoo Biz/Business Wire)(11-27-2001)

  • Soft Walls test at IRP UPDATE: A live test of a new concept in "soft wall" technology is planned for Sept. 17 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Representatives of Safari Associates Inc and No Limit Racing Adventure will demonstrate the properties of a new "Molecuthane™" soft wall material. Described as a material with unique energy-damping properties, "Molecuthane™" is already in use as a stick-on recoil pad for gun enthusiasts and is being developed as a cushion to help reduce injuries from impact with ballistic vests worn by law enforcement and military personnel. The test will feature a crash with one of No Limit Racing Adventure's trucks into a section of the soft wall material on the outer wall of the track. A leading firm specializing in crash forensics will monitor and instrument the impact while one of No Limit's drivers actually drives the truck into the barrier.(SpeedVision)(8-31-2001)
    UPDATE: The truck was dented, but the driver was unhurt and the wall he intentionally drove his truck into was intact. So in that regard, the demonstration of the latest in soft-wall technology Wednesday(Sept 26th) at the Indianapolis Speedrome was a success. "It did what it was supposed to do," said Morton Berger, president of Safari Associates, an Amsterdam, N.Y.-based company that has joined the race to develop a suitable means of padding racetrack walls. Safari's product is called molecuthane, which was developed for recoil pads on shoulder-mounted firearms. It also is being adapted for use on bulletproof vests to distribute the energy of an impact over a wider area. Company officials claim the material can reduce the G forces of an impact by as much as 70 percent. The wall is constructed in layers that are designed to reduce the force of the impact, distribute it and then return to original shape. For the test, held in front of about 50 company officials, local media and a few others, a 7-foot section of molecuthane was attached to the concrete wall. Brian Van Deman of No Limit Racing Adventure, an Indianapolis-based racing entertainment firm, then drove a NASCAR-type truck into the soft wall at about a 45-degree angle at 30 mph. See full story at the Indianapolis Star: Soft-wall test offers promise - NASCAR-style truck is driven into prototype to get sense of its effectiveness in crash. No idea what happened to te IRP test that was to be run on Sept 17th, have heard nothing.(9-27-2001)

  • Soft Walls: NASCAR continues its involvement in testing of soft-wall technology and NASCAR President Mike Helton says he's been surprised at some of the results, although he wasn't specific. "We've learned a lot," Helton said. "We've been surprised by a lot, quite frankly. That's part of research and development. We've been surprised at how some things don't work the way you would think, which makes it a bigger challenge. We keep changing materials, changing density of material to find that right combination that, No. 1, works ... and No. 2, doesn't create a worse-case scenario than the first problem to start with. That's a very fine line." Helton wouldn't put a timetable on when or if soft walls might be seen in NASCAR.(RacingExtra)(7-14-2001)

  • Soft Wall News: Safari Associates Inc. of Amsterdam will conduct a live demonstration of its new "soft wall" technology at the Indianapolis Raceway Park. The wall is constructed of molecuthane, a patented, energy-absorbing material originally developed for the military. It is designed to reduce impact G-force by as much as 70 percent. The crash demonstration is planned for early July (2001) using NASCAR Craftsman-type trucks(Captital Districl Business Review - thanks Catchfence for the heads up)(4-19-2001)

  • Soft Wall Testing UPDATE: A major story of the day was the latest "soft wall" testing, in which NASCAR appears to have made a major breakthrough. A crash test of a Kyle Petty car within the past 10 days against a special plastic padded wall at an undisclosed location appeared to show that the two-foot-thick padding cut impact G-forces from 100 Gs to less than 40 Gs, according to NASCAR sources. More testing is needed for confirmation, and that testing is expected within the next two weeks. If successful, NASCAR officials could have tracks installing the padding by early June, possibly in time for the Dover race, a track with fearsome concrete walls(steel plated actually). The proposed wall padding is part of a project first set in motion by Indy's Tony George, who would like the padding ready for his Indianapolis 500 in May. The padding is designed in sections that can be easily removed and replaced after being hit in a crash(Winston Salem Journal)(3-3-2001)
    UPDATE: NASCAR officials have continued soft-wall testing. Last week, they traveled to Nebraska to test a new padding surface(Richmond Times Dispatch)(3-5-2001)

  • Soft Walls at LMS: Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler announced Wednesday his speedway will install new "soft wall" technology on the inside of Turns 2 and 4 in time for the Oct. 8 UAW-GM Quality 500 Winston Cup race. Wheeler said he came to the decision after reviewing the engineering results from an Aug. 29 crash test at the speedway, as well as other research data. The energy-absorbing material the speedway will use in the turns in the same it tested in August, an encapsulated polystyrene barrier produced by Cellofoam in Conyers, Ga. The material was originally designed for us in the manufacture of floating boat docks. The new walls will replace the tire and water barrels currently used in these locations on the track(That's Racin')(9-19-2000)

  • Lowes and 'Soft' Walls UPDATE 4: Lowe’s Motor Speedway President H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler will introduce a new “soft wall” material during a special media demonstration Tuesday(Aug. 29, at 2pm) afternoon at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Production cars will be lifted by a crane and dropped approximately 60 feet to test the new material. Wheeler is considering using the product on portions of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway retaining walls during the upcoming NASCAR and ARCA events that comprise the Oct. 4-8 UAW-GM Quality 500 Week(LMS PR)(8-26-2000)
    UPDATE: RPM 2Night on ESPN2 mentioned they will have a report on the test(8-28-2000)
    UPDATE 2: Winston Cup driver Geoffrey Bodine is participating in the event(Times Dispatch)
    UPDATE 3: A 5000 LB Cadillac was dropped from a reported 97.5 feet. The "crash barriers" survived just fine with little apparent damage. The car however was destroyed, using up all it's built-in energy attenuation capabilities and then displacing the engine several inches(8-29-2000)
    UPDATE 4: Also on display was a Richardson Products racing seat, which was lined with a "comfort gel" padding material which absorbs and disperses energy rather than rebounding. One convincing demonstration of the material's energy dissipation property is to drop a bowling ball onto a small piece about 3/4-inch thick. The ball just stops. When dropped onto a piece of typical seat cushion foam, the ball rebounds almost as high as the point from which it was dropped, see full story about the Lowes test at SpeedVision AND a photo essay of the Lowes test at Speedway Illustrated - Soft Walls One, Car Zero(8-30-2000)

  • Fans For Safer Race Tracks: RaceSafe Barriers Test Session held on 9/20/00 - Indianapolis Raceway Park, Clermont, IN by Del Fuego with images of the testing(9-22-2000)

  • Fans for Safer Race Tracks: A group called Fans for Safer Race Tracks believes NASCAR should be moving faster on wall safety, and is lobbying sponsors to put pressure on the governing body. See their website at Fans for Safer Race Tracks and see the Tennessean/USA Today story at: Race fans want to see safer walls by Skip Wood(7-21-2000)

  • Race Safety: Pave the Gravel Traps...Re-think the Tire Barriers, Cushion the Oval Walls by John Fitch(8-23-2001)

  • AutoRacing1: Safety - Soft Walls or Soft Cars? by Mark Cipolloni(2-26-2001)

  • That's Racin': Problems delay `soft wall' effort by Tim Whitmire and Liz Chandler(2-21-2001)

  • Safety Comments from Larry Woody of the Tennessean: All the talk and attention that swirled around the issue of NASCAR safety last year seems to have cooled. Unfortunately. It shouldn’t take another racetrack tragedy to re-focus attention on the matter. Efforts shouldn’t lag in trying to find ways to build safer track walls, reliable ways to prevent stuck throttles, dependable helmets and harnesses. What were sizzling issues in the wake of last year’s driver fatalities seems to have been all but forgotten amid the excitement swirling around the start of a new season and the attendant Daytona 500 dazzle. Here’s three painful reminders why the safety issue should not be neglected: Adam Petty. Kenny Irwin. Tony Roper.(Tennessean)(2-6-2001)


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