Dean Sicking of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Assurance Ability examines a SAFER barrier on affectation at the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed on Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. (ROBERT BECKER/Lincoln Journal Star)
Don’t about-face until you apperceive area to turn.
Mac Demere watched the car in advanced of him lose ascendancy and veer larboard against the central of the track. He approved to ahead the car’s abutting move, not absent to about-face until he knew area the added car was headed next.
Don’t about-face until you apperceive area to turn.
He assuredly swerved far to the track’s outside. But as the added car regained traction, it veered acutely to the right, anon against Demere, and Demere’s car burst into its appropriate side.
“I can’t acquaint you what acquired him to lose control,” Demere said of the 1983 blast at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. “It happens so fast.”
Demere, now 57, walked abroad from that crash, but the added disciplinarian suffered a burst ankle.
Sometimes, no bulk how adamantine you try, you crash, said Demere, a above racer from South Carolina and longtime motorsports journalist.
That absolutely seemed to be the assignment at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway a anniversary ago back 15 cars crashed, killing backstab Indianapolis 500 champ Dan Wheldon. He was the aboriginal IndyCar disciplinarian to die on a clue back Paul Dana was dead during a convenance run at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006.
On Oct. 16, two cars went aerial — Wheldon’s and Will Power’s. Wheldon hit a bolt fence congenital to assure assemblage from blast debris. He died after at a hospital of arch injuries.
Power hit a barrier advised by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Assurance Facility. He absolved away.
The tragically altered fates of Wheldon and Power accept aloft apropos about the bolt fence at NASCAR and IndyCar advance and have highlighted the assurance accomplishment of the UNL-designed SAFER barrier.
Dean Sicking, administrator of the assurance ability at UNL, said the SAFER — or Steel and Cream Energy Reduction — barriers now are in abode at all NASCAR and IndyCar tracks. There accept been no fatalities involving crashes into those barriers back 2004, back all of the barriers were absolutely installed at NASCAR tracks.
Before those barriers were installed, 1 to 1.5 drivers died anniversary year at NASCAR advance alone, Sicking said. In an abnormally atrocious bulk of 10 months in 2000 and 2001, NASCAR crashes claimed the lives of beginning stars Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin Jr. and Tony Roper, and one of the sport’s legends, Dale Earnhardt.
The trapezoidal barriers advised at UNL are fabricated of insulation cream that is waterproof and able at arresting the appulse of cars activity able-bodied over 100 mph, Sicking said. Steel tubes serve as a barrier amid the cream blocks and track. The SAFER barriers assure drivers from the cruel attributes of accurate walls.
Sicking — whose appointment is busy with a photo of him afraid easily with above Admiral George W. Bush, as able-bodied as abundant awards — accompanying the adventure of how the UNL centermost got the arrangement to architecture the barriers.
In 1998, Tony George, the longtime above IndyCar admiral and Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO, capital a new racetrack barrier. The accurate barriers artlessly weren’t acceptable enough.
IndyCar designers had developed a new barrier fabricated of bedding of plastic, but it bankrupt into 50- to 100-pound chunks that blowzy the speedway back hit too hard. George asked the UNL centermost to advance the design.
“He said, ‘Can you fix this?'” Sicking said. “We never accept we can’t do something.”
Initially, Sicking wasn’t assertive it would be account the added effort. Then his abettor director, Ron Faller, assertive him it would drive the UNL centermost to acquisition new solutions to alley assurance and new abstracts with which to body them.
Sicking agreed and asked George for $1 million.
“He said, ‘When can you start?'”
It didn’t booty the UNL centermost continued to bulk out the IndyCar artificial barrier would never accomplish as able-bodied as foam, and Sicking formed to argue a agnostic George. Finally, George relented.
In 2002, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway installed the SAFER barriers, and, seeing how able-bodied they performed, NASCAR CEO Bill France Sr. ordered them installed at all NASCAR speedways by the end of 2004 at a bulk of $100 million.
The UNL centermost oversaw installation.
“No one can anytime put it in right,” Sicking said, laughing.
The barrier has becoming the UNL centermost abundant awards, including the celebrated 2002 Louis Schwitzer Award, presented in affiliation with the Indianapolis 500.
IndyCar chief abstruse administrator Phil Casey alleged SAFER barriers the greatest accomplishment for assurance in auto racing.
The barriers were installed at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2003, and the speedway area both Petty and Irwin Jr. died has had no fatalities or austere injuries since, said speedway backer Kristen Costa.
“It’s bigger on impact. It moves with the vehicle,” she said.
Costa said the speedway reconfigured its bolt fence in 2009 to accomplish it safer as well. Sicking said bolt fences at motorsports accessories charge to be re-examined.
“The bolt fence is a difficult assurance issue, a boxy nut to crack, but I anticipate it can be,” he said.
Sicking said IndyCar is afraid to advance the ample bulk of money appropriate to redesign the bolt fence, and NASCAR isn’t as absorbed in redesigning it as its cars rarely go aerial like the open-wheel Indy cars are decumbent to do.
While annihilation has been determined, the UNL centermost could end up arch the analysis into the blast that dead Wheldon, as it did with the 2001 crash that dead Earnhardt, Sicking said. The UNL centermost has advised about 2,000 crashes beneath federal contract.
“Any time you accept a big wreck, we commonly get to attending at it,” he said.
Demere, the above racer who now is advancing a master’s in journalism from UNL, said it appears Wheldon approved to apathetic bottomward by appropriation his bottom off the accelerator and approved to absolute his car against the gearbox of the slowing car in advanced of him. But his car’s adenoids lifted, and, traveling at added than 200 mph, his car bound took to the air.
With 15 cars involved, it was artlessly absurd for Wheldon to abstain the carnage, Demere said.
He said drivers try not to anticipate about accepting actively afflicted or dead while they’re racing. They artlessly try to focus on the clue and the racers about them.
“We all apperceive that it ability appear to us,” he said. “Quite frankly, I’m afraid that it didn’t appear to me.”
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