Ryan Newman Eyes Track Safety Improvements for Futureby Kyle Pokrefky February 17, 2016 0 comments
NASCAR has come a long way when it comes to protecting drivers, crew members, officials and fans, but when it comes to safety, one can never go truly far enough.
The introduction of the HANS device and other safety restraints, the complete overhaul of the chassis NASCAR uses in its series and the construction of SAFER barriers have each made strides in advancing the safety initiative set forth by the sport.
However, if you ask Ryan Newman, he’ll tell you that there is still plenty of work to be done.
Speaking during Daytona 500 Media Day on Tuesday morning, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner specifically pointed to various improvements to the tracks that NASCAR can work with ISC and SMI on – starting specifically with eliminating the infield grass.
With the Gen 6 cars and their lip on the front bumper, cars tend to dig into the grass, in turn sheering off significant amounts of bodywork if they hit the grass at the right angle.
“To me, it’s two things and I don’t know one is more important than another,” Newman stated. “We need to get rid of the grass – the grass in the tri-oval and the grass at the end of the backstretch.
“You saw what Jimmie Johnson did cutting across there. If his nose would have snagged the grass the wrong way, he would have flipped over and could have ended up in the lake or close to it.
“There’s a lot of things we need to keep our eyes on. Did he stay safe? Yes. Did he stay off the wall? Yes. Did he rip the nose of his car unnecessarily? Absolutely.”
Newman also spoke about changing the angle of the infield walls to accommodate for softer impacts for cars sent careening towards them.
In a harrowing crash at Daytona International Speedway in the XFINITY Series’s season opener last year, Kyle Busch broke bones in his right leg and left foot following a head-on crash with the inside retaining wall past pit road.
“The other thing – and NASCAR has done a better job at it but we haven’t perfected it all – is a place like Daytona which is a multi-use facility is narrowing up the racing surface so we can only hit at a certain angle,” Newman continued. “That’s the ultimate thing. You don’t want to change and increase your angle to the point where it becomes more dangerous.
“Kyle Busch’s crash was the best worst-case scenario. There were no SAFER Barriers, he had an increasing angle of impact as he got down there and still hit going really fast.
“One of the tracks where I’ve seen that happen the best, with the exception of the grass deal, is Pocono. They’ve brought the inside wall out so that we’re not having that situation.
“Daytona has its own challenges, but there’s a fix for everything. It’s just a matter of spending time, money and effort to do it right.”
Another proposal Newman has is to help keep the crews on pit road safe by constructing barriers separating the infield grass from the pie lane for more tracks.
While the short tracks of the series do have such barriers in place, larger tracks such as Daytona, Chicagoland Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway currently stand barrier-less.
“I’ve always said every track should have a pit wall to protect the crews,” Newman stated. “Something like Michigan or a place like that. For the most part, it’s SMI tracks like Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta – those places like that where you have to play out the worst-case scenario.
“We’ve seen it happen at different racetracks. I remember Jeff Gordon ended up on pit road, Steve Park ended up on pit road.
“Some things have changed because we’ve added SAFER Barriers so the cars don’t recoil quite as much as they used to. But it’s still a concern of mine, especially with qualifying and qualifying procedures with everyone being out on pit road.”
With safety measures continuously improving in the sport, perhaps Newman’s vision will be realized in the near future.
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