Jeff Gordon says he has a meeting scheduled with NASCAR next week to discuss track safety initiatives after striking a concrete wall last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Gordon’s hit came a week after Kyle Busch was injured when Busch’s car slammed into an unprotected concrete wall at Daytona International Speedway. Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway, vowed shortly after Busch’s accident to “install SAFER barrier on every inch at this property.’’
Gordon has found walls without the steel-and-foam barriers throughout his career. Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway added SAFER barriers after Gordon struck concrete walls there.
Then came Gordon’s hit at Atlanta last week and his frustration. Thus the meeting with NASCAR.
“I think it’s important to note that the tracks and NASCAR, I know that they’re doing a lot to put as much effort into what we can do right away,’’ Gordon said Friday at Las Vegas. “But there is only so much that can be done in a short period of time. The most important thing is to continue to see progress.’’
He plans to talk to NASCAR about that in his meeting.
“The one thing I would question was when did SAFER barriers start being put at racetracks, and what was the plan for them to be complete, and where are we in that plan?’’ Gordon said. “I was under the impression when they started going in it was going to be three- or four-year plan to complete the SAFER barriers on every wall that needed a SAFER barrier.’’
The SAFER barrier debuted in 2002 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was gradually placed at other NASCAR tracks beginning in 2003.
“I don’t think anybody expected them to have SAFER barriers around every wall, day one,’’ Gordon said. “I think I”m realistic to know that we just can’t have them next week. It takes a while to manufacture them. My question is what is the timeframe to have those built and installed. I think everybody knows it’s a priority. It seems to be pushed further along since Kyle’s accident. Where were we prior to Kyle’s accident?’’
Gordon said the difference between hitting the energy-absorbing barrier and a concrete wall is significant.
“What always comes to mind to me … is when I hit a non-SAFER barrier wall, I go, “Wow what did I just hit?’ ‘’ Gordon said. “I’m always caught off guard by the impact and how severe it is.
“A SAFER barrier wall, and this happened to me I think at Texas … I blew a right front tire going into Turn 1, and I was like, ‘Oh God, this is going to hurt.’
Gordon said the impact into the SAFER barrier was not as severe as he thought.
“It’s a huge difference,’’ he said.