SBD/August 11, 2014/Facilities

NASCAR Drivers Call For More Safety Changes At Watkins Glen Following Sprint Cup Crash

One red flag lasted nearly two hours while workers repaired the track
A "frightening multi-car crash" midway into yesterday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen "renewed calls by some NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers for more safety changes" at Watkins Glen Int'l, according to Ron Levanduski of the Elmira STAR-GAZETTE. The cars of Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell made "huge impacts with the blue Armco guard rail that lines much of the 2.45-mile road course." The incident "brought out two red flags: an initial stoppage for 20 minutes and 53 seconds, followed by a yellow caution to remove the cars from the track and a second stoppage for 1 hour, 49 seconds to repair the guard rail." Newman's impact "actually punctured a couple of sections of the guard rail," and he "lashed out at the safety" of the track. He said, "It is a very antiquated track and the safety is not at all up to NASCAR standards. It's a shame that we have to have accidents like that to prove it." WGI President Michael Printup said, "We will sit down with NASCAR and evaluate what that accident produced and what we need to do. Safety for the fans and drivers is paramount." Printup added that initial discussions "will take place 'no later than the end of this week,' but could not predict whether there would be action before next year's Sprint Cup race" (Elmira STAR-GAZETTE, 8/11). NASCAR VP/Competition Robin Pemberton noted WGI has made "great advancements" in safety over the years, but he said, "We're not the only series that races here." Pemberton: "Not all places are places for SAFER barriers. There are different types of systems to help slow the cars down. ... There's a priority list as far as what turns and what straightaways and things like that you need to work on. It's an ongoing process” (“Cheez-It 355 at The Glen,” ESPN, 8/10).

SAFETY FIRST: Newman referenced the Daytona Rising project when he said NASCAR has "no problems spending $400 million in Daytona, but they could spend a few million dollars here on safety and make a lot of drivers happy." USA TODAY's Ryan & Gluck note Newman's pleas "echoed the concerns voiced after the track's 2011 race, which included two violent wrecks." Driver David Ragan said that he had "seen better walls at dirt tracks and urged the addition of SAFER barriers." WGI following a '09 crash involving Jeff Gordon made $1.3M "in improvements to barriers and runoff areas, but drivers said more should be done" (USA TODAY, 8/11). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes, "Here is some unsolicited advice for NASCAR: Either put energy-absorbing SAFER barriers everywhere at every track or do a better job of explaining why they aren't there" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/11).
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