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On April 4, 2008, Michael McDowell pulled onto the track at Texas Motor Speedway to turn a qualifying lap. Instead, his No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine slammed into the wall and barrel-rolled eight times down the embankment. Safety crews pulled a shaken McDowell out of his car, who had a slight limp.
Safety innovations such as the HANS device, the new car (then known as the Car of Tomorrow) and SAFER barriers were credited with saving McDowell’s life -- and no doubt many others.
SAFER, which stands for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction, started out in the IndyCar league in 2002 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Developed by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it first took the form of PEDS (Polyethylene Energy Dissipating System) barrier.
After unsuccessful results, the team went back to the drawing board with requirements for the new barrier. The SAFER barrier we know today was put to the test at the 2002 Indianapolis 500. During the first day of practice, Robby McGehee hit the wall and the wall worked as it should.