SAFER barrier developer says Daytona could face challenges making improvements by July (VIDEO)


Dr. Dean Sicking, whose SAFER barrier has saved the lives of numerous drivers, says tracks are facing a stiff challenge to cover all their walls with the protective barrier before the end of the season.

Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway, said hours after Kyle Busch’s crash into a concrete wall that the SAFER barrier would be “on every inch of this property.

“We’re going to get this fixed and be sure we’re ready for the next event here.’’

NASCAR returns to Daytona for the July 5 race (which marks the debut of NBC’s 2015 Sprint Cup schedule).

Sicking applauds Chitwood’s determination but said complications could slow the project, noting guardrails on the inside of all four turns.

“If they’re going to take (the guardrails) out, there’s a question whether they can get it done by July,’’ Sicking told NASCAR Talk.

Sicking knows those guardrails at Daytona well. He had track officials improve them several years ago.

Sicking developed the steel-and-foam energy barrier when he was at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska. Since the barriers have been installed – beginning in 2002 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – there has not been a fatality in NASCAR’s top three national series.

“Every time someone brings that up, it just brings a smile to my face,’’ he said.

In addition to Daytona, virtually every track in NASCAR’s premier series has indicated in the past two days that it would review the need for full implementation of SAFER barriers in the wake of Busch’s crash in Saturday’s Xfinity Series season opener. Busch suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg after his No. 54 Toyota hit a concrete wall on the inside of Turn 1 at Daytona.

Sicking noted that there are various challenges with placing SAFER barriers around any track.

Some tracks have walls that open, allowing traffic to cross to the infield. Also the curvature of inside walls – Sicking noted those at Kentucky Speedway and Martinsville Speedway – present challenges because of their tight angles.

Such complications, along with getting supplies and having a crew install the barriers, leads Sicking to say: “You’d be working hard to get (SAFER barriers around a track) by November’’ if a decision was made soon to do so.

Sicking no longer consults NASCAR on track safety. The mechanical engineer is at the University of Alabama-Birmingham focusing on football helmets and reducing the likelihood of concussions.

Still, Sicking says the idea of lining tracks with SAFER barriers is one he approves.

“In terms of the barrier’s performance, I can’t imagine a situation where putting a barrier up would be a bad thing,’’ he said.

International Speedway Corp., which owns a majority of the tracks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, including Daytona, stated Tuesday that it is “developing a significant plan for the installation of additional impact-absorbing technologies, including, but not limited to SAFER barriers.’’

Sicking noted that there could be options beyond a SAFER barrier in some cases.

“There are situations where the SAFER barrier is not the best alternative,’’ he said. “If you hit the wall at 90 degrees at 160 miles an hour, it might be better to have tires.

“When you go straight into the wall … then the tire barrier gives you more space to absorb some of the energy and spread it out over a longer period of time and reduce the risk to the driver.’’

Sicking said that hitting the tires at angle, though, can cause additional problems.

“If you have an oblique hit … then tire barriers would snag you and stop you faster and be more dangerous than a SAFER barrier,’’ he told NASCAR Talk.

Daytona International Speedway placed tire barriers along the inside wall in Turn 1 for the Daytona 500 the day after Busch’s wreck, which also resulted in a fractured left foot. Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hosts all three of NASCAR’s national series this weekend, will add tire barriers along the inside wall in Turn 4.

Even with the SAFER barrier’s success, Sicking said there’s still more to learn.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think we know how good it is yet,’’ he said. “You define quality based on failure. It has yet to fail. Nobody has died yet, so I don’t think we know how good it is. It is far better than I thought it was when we put it up. We took a lot of hits that I thought would have been fatal and drivers walked away with very minor injuries.’’

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall. Elliott’s car then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.