Racing cars crash every now and then. It’s just a fact supported by statistics. Nobody wants anybody hurt in a crash…not the driver, not the fans, nobody. Over the course of motorsports history, different techniques have been applied to keep drivers alive in the event that things go completely down the tubes. ARMCO barriers, dirt berms, stacks of tires, sand traps, gravel traps and more have been used with varying degrees of success and failure over the years. In the case of oval-track racing, the most successful method had been, for quite some time, a simple concrete ring on the outside of the oval…it could take the hit from a stock car at speed, but let’s face it: the driver was hitting a concrete wall.
After an attempt with an energy absorbing foam system called PEDS (Polyethylene Energy Dissipating System). It was successful at absorbing some of the kinetic energy created from a hit, but the downside was that each impact created a mess that needed to be cleaned up. An updated system, PEDS-2, exposed another flaw: the ability of the wall to “catch and pivot” a car. The nose would stop, but the back end would swing around violently. That wouldn’t do either.
The current system is the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barrier). It’s got a flush wall to keep cars from catching and pivoting, has polystyrene blocks to absorb energy, resists the car’s tendency to be bounced back into traffic, and is able to be affixed to the concrete walls at existing tracks. SAFER barriers have been credited with sparing drivers from serious injury in accidents, but before the first incident ever occurred, the wall had to be tested. This is that test…a NASCAR Intrepid from the Richard Petty Experience was sacrificed to test out not only the barrier, but the HANS device as well. Better the dummy go first, right?