Texas Motorplex safety upgrades

FORCE LEADS THE WAY AS TEXAS MOTORPLEX MAKES SAFETY UPGRADES FOR O'REILLY SUPER START FALL NATIONALS ENNIS, Texas (Aug. 20, 2008) -- Maybe it's because Billy Meyer will forever be, first and foremost, a racer. Maybe it's because he knows he can...

FORCE LEADS THE WAY AS TEXAS MOTORPLEX MAKES SAFETY UPGRADES FOR O'REILLY SUPER START FALL NATIONALS

ENNIS, Texas (Aug. 20, 2008) -- Maybe it's because Billy Meyer will forever be, first and foremost, a racer. Maybe it's because he knows he can do more. Maybe it's simply because he cares about the racers more than the bottom line.

The reason isn't important. What matters is that Meyer -- owner and president of the all-concrete quarter-mile Texas Motorplex -- continues to make safety improvements to the track in preparation for the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals to be held Sept. 18-21.

One of the biggest additions to the track will be an extended run-off area after the finish line.

"Even though we have one of the longest tracks and sand trap areas in the sport, we decided after the Scott Kalitta accident (at Englishtown, N.J. in June) that we should extend our safety area as much as possible just because you never know," Meyer said. "Right now our sand trap is about the length of a football field and we are extending our so it will be three times as long. The walls are going to not only be taller than the height on the track, but the walls also are going to continue to narrow down to be able to funnel a car into a safe zone eliminating the chance that a car hits anything.

"What Scott Kalitta's accident taught is that even though we have not had a runaway car in a long, long time in this sport, it can happen. There is no reason to spare any expense if it can spare another racer's life. Even if the chances are one in a million that it could happen again, we can't take that chance."

One of the people Meyer and the Texas Motorplex crew has leaned on for advice on how to make the track safer is John Force. The prolific 14-time NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion was injured in a second-round accident at Texas Motorplex in 2007 when his car collided with Kenny Bernstein. Force suffered two broken legs and severe damage to his arms and hands when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car struck Bernstein as both cars were going more than 300 mph.

Force was a patient at Baylor University Medical Center for 27 days while he recovered from his injuries. He didn't race again until the 2008 season opener in February.

"NHRA is aggressively working on safety improvements but I've also been talking to Force about some of the things we can do to increase safety at the track," Meyer said. "Force's team has been at the forefront of the quest to make the sport more safe. I spent a lot of time racing cars in my life and I know that we always need to be working on improvements."

Force ---- and his Force Racing Team started The Eric Medlen Project (TEMP) after his team driver, Eric Medlen, was killed in March 2007 during a testing accident at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway. The project's aim is to enhance race car safety in all forms of motorpsorts through rigorous research and development. Compelling

"I'm excited Billy Meyer is making additional safety improvements to the Texas Motorplex," Force said. "As a former funny car driver Billy has always wanted what is best for the racers. He has always been an innovator and I think the changes he is making to his track, especially the longer sand pit, will give drivers a better chance to avoid serious injuries. I can't wait to get back to Texas."

Meyer said he is proud of what Force's organization is doing in terms of drawing attention to the need for more safety measures that work.

"They are leading the way and I think we should all work together and see what we can accomplish to keep the sport safe and exciting," Meyer said. "I will do what I can to continue the dialogue for how tracks can improve their facilities. I think it's important that Force has teamed up with Ford Motor Co. to conduct research and design. Instead of just guessing, they will bring a technical expertise that will accomplish great things."

Sportsman qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 18. The first of four rounds of professional qualifying is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 19, continuing at 6:45 p.m. that evening. Qualifying wraps up with sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 20. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 21.

Tickets for all four days of racing can be purchased by phone at 800-MOTORPLEX (688-6775) or at the track.

-credit: tm

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About this article
Series Automotive , NHRA
Drivers John Force , Scott Kalitta , Eric Medlen