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Michigan International Speedway Invests in Safety for Weekend Race

10 Aug, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Michigan International Speedway announced it will be extending the exiting wall in the tri-oval to improve overall safety ahead of the upcoming Pure Michigan 400 race, to take place Sunday, August 16.

According to a report in Motor Sport, as a result of a pre-event review from the International Speedway Corp. and NASCAR, the changes will be made to the pit wall of MIS. Approximately 150 feet of temporary wall will be added to the existing pit road tri-oval wall, extending toward Turn 4. In addition, attenuators will be put at the end of the wall to absorb any impact. The change comes in part as a result of a trio of incidents which took place two weeks ago at Pocono Raceway, where three different drivers spun off the exit of Turn 3 and ended up slamming into a portion of the pit wall.

The most serious incident involved driver Kasey Kahne in the Sprint Cup Series race. He spun and hit the pit wall on Lap 5 of the race, hitting an area filled with team members and fans with pit road passes. No one was injured.

A day earlier, Jeb Burton wrecked in almost the same fashion and location during a Cup series practice session. Burton told Motorsport.com his accident registered 45 Gs but was expected to receive a complete report this week. Ray Black Jr. had a similar incident during the weekend’s Truck race, but hit an area away from where teams typically pit.

MIS has also completed the addition of 700 feet of energy-absorbing Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier and tire packs on the wall inside of Turn 1.

Safety issues have plagued NASCAR of late and many drivers have complained that not enough is being done to keep drivers from injury.

"You never can do enough to be safe and keep the competitors safe and keep the fans safe," Dale Earnhardt, Jr., said earlier this year during an interview with USA Today at Martinsville Speedway. "So you shouldn't ever stop trying. But unfortunately, it takes an accident like that to wake everybody up and make things happen."

In February, Kyle Busch was injured in Daytona, on the same track where Earnhardt, Jr.’s father was killed in 2001. Since Busch's crash, tracks have scrambled to make plans for more AFER barriers and placed temporary tire stacks against some walls. According to Earnhardt, Jr., however, impact with the tires send cars skidding off in unpredictable directions. “Nothing is better than a SAFER barrier,” he noted.

But the bottom line is that SAFER barriers are expensive; they cost $500 per foot. Of course, in a sport that has a multi-billion-dollar TV deal, it should be obvious the money is available.

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