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

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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.’’

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images
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Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

MORE: Truck points after COTA

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup

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Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA

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William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather

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Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at goprn.com; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: Fox Sports

FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

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