New safer barriers raise some speculation come race day

-á And so the culmination of a month's worth of work and effort comes down to 200 laps. Sunday the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place, weather permitting of course, and there is no doubt that this years race will hold some stories once that checkered flag waves.

There is one story that may catch a little more flack than some may expect -- the safer barrier walls in the turns.

At first thought, they sound like a great idea.

Build a wall that reduces the number of G's a driver endures during a hard wreck -- build a wall that absorbs impact. When you consider it that way, it's ingenious.

There is, however, one really big question yet to be answered about these new walls. That question being how will they hold up and/or perform on race day?

I foresee some problems regarding the walls come Sunday.

If you go back and watch replays of any of the crashes that have taken place this month that involve the new walls, there is one common denominator -- the cars bounce.

When a car hits that wall, it bounces off of it as if it were almost made of rubber. It's a good deal different than when the car would smack the hard cement wall and skid along the top of the track.

So, what's wrong with bouncing? Well, for a moment, envision a pack of 20 cars flying into turns one and two, the lead car loses grip, slides up and smacks the wall. Upon smacking that wall, the car bounces back down into the groove and causes a NASCAR-type pileup. So the real question may be, which is better -- one car hitting the wall at high G's or several cars being involved in a large multi-car pileup?

Another problem with the wall lies within its structure. The walls are built to withstand hard impacts and in some cases, have absorbed that impact well. In other cases, the impact was so great that it left a hole in the wall.

The race shouldn't go on if there is a hole in the wall. What if, and this would be a small chance, but a reality, a second car hit the wall in the same spot. That hole could become deadly. It may rip the car in half or even cause a series of violent spins or flips.

I did hear one solution to this particular problem throughout the month, that being that cleanup crews would rebuild that portion of the wall. Oh good, maybe the race will last all friggin' day. Next year they'll be installing lights at the Speedway in case there are too many wall repairs throughout the daylight hours.

But in all seriousness, I'm not saying the walls don't have good intentions. I am saying that it will be interesting to see if these same exact walls will be in place for next year's race or if a modified version will come about in the next year.

I guess the real answer to the speculation regarding the new walls can best be summed up with an old clich+â-¬: only time will tell.


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