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NASCAR Wants A Safer Watkins Glen Track

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 16 2011

The car of David Reutimann was ripped apart by a crash late Monday at Watkins Glen. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR President Mike Helton said Tuesday he expected safety updgrades to be made at Watkins Glen International before next season’s event, but he stopped short of saying SAFER barriers would be installed on every section of the road

course where two vicious crashes occurred during Monday’s Sprint Cup race.

A horrendous crash on Monday’s final circuit of the 92-lap race launched David Reutimann’s Toyota into an aerial somersault across the track. The accident was triggered when Boris Said’s Chevrolet clipped David Ragan’s Ford in the left rear and turned him into the left guardrail. Ragan’s car then shot back across the track in Turn 2, collected Reutimann and the two slammed into the track’s right side barrier. The impact launched Reutimann’s Toyota.

The other accident occurred on lap 66 when Denny Hamlin’s Toyota careened off Turn 1 and slammed headon into a wall of tires placed in front of a guard rail. Behind the guard rail was a concrete base for a catch fence pole. The impact was so severe the guard rail was bent and the front of Hamlin’s Toyota pushed back to the car’s firewall.

“I don’t (know if there will be more SAFER barriers at Watkins Glen next year),” Helton said. “I think what may be safe to assume is the configuration of what’s there certainly could be different.”

Helton noted there were some areas where a SAFER barrier wasn’t always the best solution, Denny Hamlin slammed into the tire barrier at Watkins Glen. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)“particularly on a road course because of the uniqueness of going left and right.”

“On an oval track where the cars constantly go left it’s easier to figure out, but what we’ve been told is there are some areas that may not (be the case),” Helton continued. “That doesn’t mean all of the areas that need to be covered (by a SAFER barrier) are covered, but a SAFER barrier is not always the perfect answer for a situation.”

Earlier this year, the cost of a SAFER barrier was estimated at $500 a foot. That would place a half-mile of SAFER barrier at about $1.3 million.

Helton said the video of the wrecks would be studied, as well as the cars involved in the crashes. He noted some of the track’s barrier angles could be changed where the Ragan-Reutimann wreck occurred, especially since the run-off where the accident started was now asphalt instead of gravel.

“All of those things have to be taken into consideration,” Helton said, “but at the end of the day it’s using all modern technology (that will tell what happened and the action needed.) As much as you work on and anticipate, you can’t anticipate everything that can happen because if you’ve got a group of race cars on the race track, I doubt there’s any software, if there is I would like to see it, that can calculate everything that could come up.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 16 2011
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