Martinsville Speedway to install tire barriers for NASCAR race weekend

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Following the lead of other NASCAR tracks, Martinsville Speedway announced Monday it will use additional tire barriers as a safety measure for this weekend’s Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series events.

The International Speedway Corp.-owned track said in a release that the barriers would be installed at the end of the backstretch of the .526-mile oval and in place for Friday’s practices and Sprint Cup qualifying, Saturday’s  Kroger 250 and Sunday’s STP 500.

“We are committed to the continued safety of the drivers and our fans,” Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell said. “We will continue to collaborate with ISC and NASCAR for additional safety enhancements deemed necessary.”

Tracks around the circuit have re-evaluated their safety standards in the wake of Kyle Busch’s Feb. 22 wreck in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch is out indefinitely with a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a fractured left foot.  His No. 54 Toyota hit an area of the inside wall going into Turn 1 that was unprotected by SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barriers., which cushion the G forces absorbed by a driver during a crash.

USA Today Sports recently reported on tire barriers as a stopgap while awaiting SAFER barrier installation. The media outlet interviewed Dr. Dean Sicking, the University of Alabama-Birmingham professor who spearheaded the invention of SAFER technology. Sicking said there were some instances in which tire barriers were preferable, but that SAFER barriers were the best option in the majority of impacts.

“(The tire barrier) grabs you,” Sicking said. “So if you hit at a low angle, like Dale Earnhardt’s (fatal) crash (in the 2001 Daytona 500), 13-degree angle, it’s going to turn that car right into the barrier and you’re going to come to a stop right now. That’s tough.”

Tire barriers were installed overnight at Daytona along the wall where Busch’s car hit. Auto Club Speedway also installed barriers on the inside wall of Turn 1. In the season’s second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, 51 feet of tire barriers were installed in Turn 1 and 117 feet in Turn 4, using roughly 74 tire packs shipped from Charlotte Motor Speedway.