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SAFER barrier tethers need inspecting
The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier system currently in place at all NASCAR facilities has significantly reduced driver injuries, but the aging nylon tethers may need to be replaced soon, according to the man who developed it. Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska, said the SAFER barriers have three major components: structural steel tubing, closed-cell polystyrene foam blocks and nylon retention tethers.

The foam blocks begin to lose their effectiveness for dissipating energy after about five years, Sicking said. But the nylon tethers are also affected by the elements, particularly sunlight. And since most of the tracks installed their SAFER systems between 2003 and '04, the tethers are now in need of inspection.

"Almost all of the tracks have replaced the foam once," Sicking said. "I've informally inspected the tethers during my walks around the tracks. And the tethers are now reaching a point where they need to be looked at."

Sicking said tracks shouldn't be overly concerned about tether replacement, but they should be aware that it could become an issue in the future. Because the tethers help hold the SAFER barrier in place, Sicking said the failure of multiple tethers could result in a disastrous situation, particularly if it happened during a race weekend.

For example, a track the size of Daytona may have several thousand tethers in place -- and if they failed, it could create chaos. The good thing? Tethers are relatively inexpensive, Sicking said. And it's something each track can budget for in advance. NASCAR.com

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