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Spotlight: SAFER Barriers

By: Candice Smith  @Chief187s

When talking to casual observers of NASCAR who poo-poo the lengthy three to four hour races in the top series, I try to explain that NASCAR racing at the Cup level is a marathon not a sprint.

Yesterday we were treated to a marathon of marathons at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes.

Fraught with rain delays, the race was soggy, elongated with endless wait times, yet yielded an event with surprises.

The Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano took each other out of contention early on in the day. Kevin Harvick got tangled up in a mess than ended his impressive streak of finishing first or second.  Carl Edwards finally had a great shot at winning but didn’t.

Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag first capturing his first win of the season and ensuring a spot in the Chase.

But what I remember most about the race last night was a scary hit Landon Cassill had when he came down into the No. 42 of Kyle Larson who was leading the race at the time. Cassill’s car hit the wall hard; it looked bad.
Thankfully SAFER Barriers were installed where Cassill hit, a fact that spared the driver from serious harm.

Larson punts Cassill

Cassill came down into Larson and Larson punted Cassill in “one of them racin’ deals” at Bristol. SAFER Barriers saved Cassill from serious injury or worse.

 

It seems to me Cassill is one of the lucky ones who hit where SAFER Barriers were installed. Tracks have installed this safety feature to beef up measures to protect drivers, but they do not exist everywhere.

Recently the racing world is full of stories of driver injuries because of a lack of SAFER Barriers. In one story a professional racing instructor – the passenger –  was killed because of an unfortunate accident in an exotic driving experience in Orlando, FL.

USP NASCAR: ALERT TODAY FLORIDA 300 S CAR USA FL

Kyle Busch’s accident in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, February 2015. No SAFER Barriers existed at the site of this accident.

 

It’s a blurry line between inexperience and freak accident.  There were “perfect storms” that led to an accident by Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the season opener at Daytona in February. That accident has led to the Sprint Cup driver to be out of competition for an unknown amount of time and out of contention for a championship most likely this season.

Busch got off lightly with leg injuries compared to others who hit the wall and lost their life. The list is long and filled with the sports’ brightest stars and future heroes. Names like Dale Earnhardt, Neil Bonnett, Adam Petty, Kerry Irwin Jr. could have all been saved had SAFER Barriers been installed at the time.

DaleEarnhardtInCarCockpit

Dale Earnhardt would likely be alive following his crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 had Daytona International Speedway been outfitted with SAFER Barriers (the technology was relatively new in 2001).

 

And installed they were saving countless lives and making drivers more reassured that their lives weren’t nearly as endangered as they once were.

All drivers understand that racing is inherently dangerous. They choose the sport because they have talent, a compulsion, and, in some cases, an addiction to adrenaline.

But nowadays there is an understanding that safety equipment, safety measures, and, well, just safety exists in the sport in a way that heretofore in never has.

So why are SAFER Barriers not everywhere? Why in 2015 does an accident like Busch’s happen when SAFER Barriers could be put everywhere?

Drivers are mandated to have five-point seatbelts, HANS devices, and car frames that are state-of-the-art in terms of safety, so why aren’t tracks outfitted everywhere with SAFER Barriers to protect in all types of scenarios, both commonplace and whacky, lest they become death knells?

Jason Leffler and son

Jason Leffler and his young son Charlie Dean.

 

Jason Leffler’s son wishes the track his father perished had SAFER Barriers. Certainly nearly all of NASCAR and the world wishes Daytona had them in 2001 when Earnhardt was lost. The same is true with young Adam Petty, the last of the racing dynasty’s male heirs from Richard’s family who is no longer with us.

I love watching racing, but I hate seeing devastating accidents, especially ones that could be avoided with a little bit of money and effort.

It seems ridiculous that still talking about the need for SAFER Barriers anywhere a racecar goes on a track is necessary in 2015.

BMS SAFER Barriers

Bristol Motor Speedway installed a lot more SAFER Barriers before the spring 2015 race held over the weekend.

 

Enough lives have been lost and enough injuries have been had for the discussion to be over and the action to happen.

Now, on to Richmond.

4 comments

  1. I so agree! There should be a mandate that if a track is not outfitted with safer barriers they forfeit the race or race’s scheduled to be run there. Safety in NASCAR has made great leaps many since and because of Dale’s death but come on NASCAR finish the path and demand these barrier’s be installed everywhere. Before we lose another driver. As Candic’s article points out, NASCAR you’ve had to many near misses already in this young racing season!! It’s time to listen to the signs driver’s safety is utmost It’s TIME!
    Thank you Candice for another fine article! Another great warning has been given!

  2. Other than the HANS device (which some could say is almost a “restrictive” safety feature), the SAFER barriers are the greatest edition to the tracks’ and NASCARs equipment over the years. Many a guardrail (Richmond / Darlington) has peeled a car open like a tin can and numerous concrete walls (NH and Dega) have crushed frames and egos alike. These current drivers are very fortunate that the governing body has put that focus on them continuing to be safe. Good form Candice.

  3. I agree. They should be installed on all tracks. I’am sure money has a lot to do with not installing them. How much is a life worth? Good article.

  4. Great story, but I found one thing I believe is incorrect!! Adam Petty, was not “the last of the racing dynasty’s male heirs from Richard’s family who is no longer with us”!!! Unless, Kyle’s son Austin, is no longer living, Adam wouldn’t be the last!!! Now granted, Austin does not race, but I think he’s still alive?? I know, it’s not the point of the story, but…

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