IMS President George Receives Prestigious Autosport Award

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Dec. 6, 2004 -- Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief executive officer, received the inaugural Pioneering and Innovation Award at the Autosport Awards Dec. 5 in London for his leadership in the development of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier.

George received the award at the annual gala at the Grosvenor House on behalf of the creators of the SAFER Barrier from Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the leader of the Bahrain International Grand Prix circuit.

The SAFER Barrier, under development by the Indy Racing League and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility since 1998, absorbs energy during impacts with retaining walls and is one of the more important safety breakthroughs in motorsports. NASCAR joined in the development of the system in September 2000.

"It's been a big step forward in speedway racing," George said. "It's something that was very important to me. The prospect of coming up with a soft wall has been something we have been working on for the better part of a decade.

"After several years of hard work, we called upon the expert advice of the people at the University of Nebraska. They have done a great job helping us in the development of this system. Everyone in the IRL and NASCAR worked very hard for this achievement."

This is the fourth major award that has been presented to honor George and the SAFER Barrier development team. The SAFER Barrier also received the Louis Schwitzer Award, SEMA Motorsports Engineering Award and GM Racing Pioneer Award in 2002.

The SAFER Barrier was installed in all four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- a pioneer in safety for drivers, cars and tracks -- in time for the 86th Indianapolis 500 in 2002. It since has been installed at more than a dozen other tracks, and the latest iteration will be installed at the Speedway in the spring.

"Tony George's vision and commitment of resources really made this project happen," said Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility.

Each 20-foot module of the SAFER Barrier consists of four rectangular steel tubes, welded together, to form a unified element. The modules are connected with four internal steel splices.

Bundles of 2-inch-thick sheets of extruded, closed-cell polystyrene are placed between the concrete wall and the steel tubing modules every 10 feet.

"I think Tony's contribution has been tremendous," said four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears. "Taking the initiative to get the SAFER Barrier started has been a heck of a contribution to safety, not just for Indy cars but also for stock cars. To take the initiative, do the leg work, set up the test facilities, find the people and to continue to develop it and make it better as we go, that's a milestone in racing."