Daytona to ring entire track with SAFER barrier
February 21, 2015, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona International Speedway track president Joie Chitwood III said Saturday evening that the facility had "failed to live up to its responsibility today," hours after NASCAR driver Kyle Busch was transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center for treatment of a leg injury.
Busch, competing in Saturday's XFINITY Series season-opening race, was injured when he his No 54 Joe Gibbs Racing entry struck the inside wall nose first on the 112th lap of the 120-lap event.
Due to the severity of the injury, NASCAR officials said the 29-year-old Busch would not be able to compete in Sunday's Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
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JGR officials announced at approximately 9:19 p.m. ET Saturday that Busch had sustained a compound fracture of the right lower leg as well as a mid-foot fracture of his left foot. The injuries will keep Busch off the track for an indefinite period.
Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Matt Crafton will replace Busch in the team's No. 18 entry for the 500, however no replacement has been named for future races.
While much of Daytona's 2.5-mile track features the impact-absorbing SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, the area struck by Busch's car does not.
"We should have had a SAFER barrier there today; we did not," Chitwood said. "We're going to fix that. We're going to fix that right now."
Chitwood, who took over the reins of NASCAR's best-known facility in August of 2010, said track officials had dispersed a team of workers Saturday night to "install tire packs along that 850-foot … wall, so we're ready to go racing (Sunday).
Once the event is complete, Chitwood said work would begin to "install SAFER barrier on every inch at this property.
"This is not going to happen again," he said. "We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first NASCAR-sanctioned track to put the barriers in place, completing its initial installation in May of 2002. A second generation of the barrier was installed at IMS in '05.
Kansas Speedway completed its first SAFER barrier project in August of '04 and other NASCAR-sanctioned facilities have since upgraded their facilities to include the system as well.
However, no NASCAR-sanctioned track currently feature the energy-reducing materials on all of its interior and exterior walls.
Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, said officials have been told that there were situations in which it would be unwise to install the barriers in certain locations at some tracks.
"I think it goes to NASCAR is not the only sanctioning body that races at a specific track," he said. "I can use Eldora for instance, where a SAFER barrier was looked at, but wouldn't have been the safest solution."
Eldora Speedway, a one-half mile dirt track located in Rossville, Ohio and owned by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, hosts a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event each year.
"One of the challenges is there are a lot of other racing series that race at the racetracks we race at," O'Donnell said, "but I wouldn't say it's a very common occurrence."
Busch's injury was just the latest involving NASCAR drivers hitting walls left unprotected by the barriers. In 2013, teammate Denny Hamlin suffered a back injury that sidelined the JGR driver after a hard crash at Auto Club Speedway.
The track installed 1,000 additional feet of the barrier in the wake of Hamlin's accident.
Jeff Gordon's crash at Las Vegas brought about changes to the inside wall where his No. 24 entry struck in a 2011 incident; crashes by Elliott Sadler at Pocono Raceway and Jeff Fuller at Kentucky in recent years brought about changes at those facilities as well.
O'Donnell did not say that NASCAR would require every facility to install the SAFER barrier on all of the walls. But he said talks about increasing the amount of the barrier are on-going and would continue.
"We always have those conversations with the race tracks," he said. "What we've said here tonight is we will accelerate those talks with the tracks. We want this sport to be as safe as possible for not only our drivers, but for everyone who participates in the sport and the race fans as well."