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DATE News (chronologically)
05/06/11
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Gordon's Richmond crash registers 40 G's  Members of Jeff Gordon’s team were informed that Gordon’s crash last week at Richmond registered a G-force spike of about 40, which would be high enough for NASCAR to recommend that a SAFER barrier be added along at least part of the inside backstretch wall at Richmond.

Gordon was uninjured when his car slammed driver side into the inside wall at Richmond. He was outspoken after the crash, questioning why there wasn’t a SAFER barrier on the inside backstretch wall at Richmond in particular and elsewhere at other tracks.

NASCAR officials would not reveal the g-force spike in Gordon’s crash but said it was among the hardest hits in Cup this season.

Earlier this week, I talked to Dr. Dean Sicking, who is the director of the Midwest Roadside Facility at the University of Nebraska and developed the SAFER barrier. Sicking has worked with NASCAR in safety issues since 2001, helping co-write the report on Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident. He plays a key role in making safety recommendations for tracks.

I asked Sicking what it would take for him to recommend that Richmond install a SAFER barrier in at least the area where Gordon hit. This is what Sicking told me:

“We don’t look at frequency of impacts as being very important. It’s frequency of serious hits. If you take a high G hit, then we say … we need to start protecting those areas. If you take one hard hit, that would be necessary and sufficient evidence for us to say that we probably need a SAFER barrier there.''

So, what is a high-G impact?

“If during the impact, you’re 25 to 30 Gs or under, we consider that to be a moderately low impact,’’ said Sicking, who had not yet received any information on Gordon’s hit from NASCAR when we talked earlier this week. “If you’re anywhere above 30, that’s a hard hit.’’

That would put Gordon’s hit above the threshold.

“I’m not sure what his threshold is,’’ Gordon said of Sicking’s comments, “I know we exceeded the threshold. At the time when I hit the wall I wasn’t even thinking about it. I knew it was a hard hit. I got in the medical center and my head hurt a little bit and other than that, I was feeling pretty good. I was walking out of the medical center and I happened to see a TV and caught a glance at what happened, and I was shocked.

“I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a SAFER barrier there, then I realized why it hurt so much. It was pretty interesting this week because I had several drivers text me saying, “Thank you for helping to make the race track safer.’

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing the SAFER barrier there. I seem to find those places on tracks. I think there are areas that are still out there, for some reason, that still need to be covered. Hopefully, through this incident, which I walked away from unscathed, we’ll be able to make improvements there at Richmond. It’s just an area that needs to be re-looked at and from what I understand they will definitely be doing that.’’

Richmond International Raceway was among the first tracks to have SAFER barriers installed on the outside walls in the corners in 2003. Doug Fritz, president of RIR, said that the track has followed all recommendations on adding SAFER barriers. Fritz countered a comment Kyle Busch made after his win that tracks couldn’t add as much safety equipment because they were selling out their events and didn’t have as much money to do so.

Said Fritz: “Money has nothing to do with the safety aspect. Our role is to make this facility as safe as it possibly can.’’

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