More Soft Walls Coming

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR officials hope to have SAFER Barriers installed at most of its Nextel Cup tracks by 2005, and Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway will be the next to add the so-called "soft walls."

Robin Braig, president of the Daytona track, and Rick Humphrey, vice president and general manager of Talladega, both told The Associated Press on Thursday their plans to add SAFER Barriers during the 2004 season. Braig said the barriers, which absorb impact and reduce G Forces to the drivers in a crash, cannot be installed at the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) oval in time for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, but will be in place for the Pepsi 400 on July 3.

Talladega previously installed the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction system on the inside retaining wall of its 2.66-mile (4.28-kilometer) oval, extending from the exit of Turn 4, along the main straightaway and trioval and into the first turn - a distance of about 3,000 feet (900 meters).

Talladega will add the barriers to the outside walls in all four turns in time for the Aaron's 499 on April 25.

The energy absorbing system, designed by a team of engineers led by Dr. Dean Sicking, head of the research group at the University of Nebraska, is four steel tubes welded in 20-foot (6-meter) sections and bolted to the concrete walls. Between the steel and the concrete, pads of hard, pink foam are placed 10 feet (3 meters) apart, allowing the surface to bend and reduce force.

"We're exited about doing this and, hopefully, it'll do what NASCAR wants it to do and add a comfort level for the drivers," Humphrey said.

The addition of the barriers at Daytona raises the number of track with soft walls to seven, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, New Hampshire International Speedway, Phoenix International Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"We'd like to see the SAFER Barriers installed by January 2005 at all the tracks at which the experts in Nebraska feel they will work and can be engineered," said Gary Nelson, managing director of NASCAR's research and development facility in Concord.

Nelson said he has seen how much difference the barriers can make.

Driver Jerry Nadeau sustained a serious head injury in a crash last May at Richmond and is still recuperating.

"In the fall, the SAFER Barrier was up at that track and Jason Keller hit, actually a little harder, the same exact driver's side hit, and he was not injured," Nelson said. "He was able to test his car two days later.

"So we studied the things about what was different and what was the same about those two accidents and, as we went through it, we realized that wall did so much more than we had ever seen in testing in that type of a wreck."

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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