Speedway makes the track SAFER for drivers

Drivers are now more protected since the Indianapolis Motor Speedway installed new walls.

In May, the Steele and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier was mounted on all four outer corners of the 2.5 mile oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track.

Driver Eddie Cheever Jr., 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner is impressed with the lengths the IRL is willing to go to for the safety of the drivers.

"Over the past six years, (the IRL) has reinvented open-wheeled racing," Cheever said. "The safety of these cars has improved dramatically. The next logical step had to be making the walls softer. On paper this sounds easy, but it has taken a huge investment in time, research and money."

The barrier serves as a bumper to slow down the car once it hits the wall. Behind the wall is a foam layer which absorbs the impact after a car hits.

On May 5, IRL driver Robby McGhee was the first to test out the safety design. His car spun going into turn 3 and backed the car into the barrier.

The car suffered heavy damage, but McGhee was only left with small fractures in his upper back and lower leg.

"I think I owe a lot to it," McGhee said. "I don't know if I would be here right now if it wasn't for the new walls. I mean, it still was a huge hit. It was really a bad angle. I think they said the rear impact was 40 G's.

"Historically, hits like that would have been over a hundred (G's). It definitely (would have) knocked you out."

Though McGhee's accident took over 40 minutes to clean up due to debris, the wall was patched in a matter of minutes.

The barrier is made in 20-foot modules to ensure any damaged section can be replaced quickly.

Several NASCAR track owners have shown interest in installing the SAFER system at their tracks.

IRL and IMS president and CEO Tony George said, "If a life without risk is not worth living, and a day without challenge is not worth facing, the business of motor sports certainly provides opportunity for both on a daily basis."


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