PIR considering SAFER upgrade to safety tire wall

Phoenix Raceway
Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR drivers apparently won't know until after Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500 if the tires stacked inside Phoenix International Raceway's Turn 4, near pit entrance, will be replaced with a permanent SAFER barrier to soften impact against the concrete wall. Safety – specifically, increased use of so-called "soft" wall technology – has been a major issue since Kyle Busch suffered leg and foot fractures last month at Daytona International Speedway. He's sidelined indefinitely.

Jeff Gordon avoided injury after a hard hit two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Both struck walls not protected with SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers, first used at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002, which reduces G-force impact kinetic energy by over 50%. A NASCAR official last week recommended the 160-foot long tire wall – four high and two deep – after a track inspection.

"The way we're going to approach this is work closely with NASCAR and ISC (International Speedway Corp., PIR's parent) on a thorough and updated review," said PIR President Bryan Sperber. "We'll be thoughtful about it. It will be a constant evolution." SAFER costs about $500 a foot. Race cars have sometimes bounced off tire walls and back into oncoming traffic. "If that was a concern, it wasn't mentioned to me," Sperber said. Arizona Republic

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