One thing that’s still going strong in Newton is construction on the Iowa Speedway. The racetrack that’s taking shape will include a state-of-the-art SAFER barrier. The name stands for “Steel and Foam Energy Reduction,” a design for the track’s outside wall that can cut the odds of serious injuries in a crash.
Dean Sicking is director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, and is credited with devising the “SAFER Barrier.” The barrier absorbs a third to one-half the energy of an impact with the wall, holding down the amount of damage to the car body and minimizing the force of the crash upon the car and the g-load of that crash on the driver.
Sicking says the Iowa Speedway is being built with the SAFER barrier incorporated in its design. “Newton is our first guinea pig,” Sicking says. All the racetracks where the SAFER barrier’s been installed so far were already built with conventional concrete barriers and the SAFER system was added to its face. Newton will be the first built without any concrete behind the SAFER barrier.
NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt died after his racecar hit a wall while he was going 150 miles an hour during the Daytona 500 race five years ago. Sicking was asked if his SAFER barrier’s part of the reason there hasn’t been a similar race-driver death since that one. Sicking says he thinks “without a doubt there’s been a half a dozen crashes where there would have been a high probability of a serious injury or fatality, where the drivers more or less walked away.”
He says there have been a few concussions but no serious injuries in any NASCAR crashes since the SAFER barrier was added to tracks, and he’s pretty sure that without it, there would have been fatalities.
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More info on SAFER wall technology