The Houston aftermath: what is next for IndyCar?

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What will IndyCar go and do next in relation to safety at a racetrack?

What is the next step IndyCar?

This weekend saw the first time a DW12 chassis has been sent up into the fence. And what happened? It got torn apart. The driver was injured. Parts of the car ended up in the grandstands, and spectators were injured.

Now, as with most sports, a big, long and drawn out investigation will be into this. What will come of it? Well, there are two possible outcomes I see coming along.

The first is that something needs to be changed on the cars. This is the wrong solution, in my opinion. Fans are just starting to get used to the DW12, with its safety inspired rear tire guards and wide and bulky, yet flowing hull.

The changes were made to prevent cars from becoming airborne so easily. They succeeded in my mind. This accident could have happened anywhere this year…well almost anywhere.

The fences are the next possible solution to the issue. This is completely the right way to go. While last weekend, I complained about the street tracks, due to the issues with the Houston delays, I still love them. However they need to be done right. They need to have smooth pavement, runoff areas, and where required, some upgraded fencing.

The cars will not be getting slower any time soon. Giving the cars more bodywork to avoid wheel-to-wheel contact is out, because if you want to watch the IndyCar stars in stock cars, go watch a Nationwide race.

The fencing is the culprit here. I heard some terrifying rumors this season about the fencing at, what could have been a particularly dangerous place, Pocono. Apparently, the aging infrastructure saw drooping cables along the fences. Without the tight cables between each fence post, they are more like incredibly powerful fish-nets with a scary cheese grater like outcome.

At Houston, however, everything looked to be pretty standard as far as the fencing is concerned. Rigid square fencing was used, which was installed in large concrete barriers.

So what can be done?

Plexiglass.

I think a length of plexiglass along the lower half of the fencing, that prevents the car from actually ending up in contact with the wires and cables and poles would do the trick. It wouldn’t impede the fans view of the race either.

That stuff is incredibly strong. While it’s strong, it’s also reasonably expensive. But who cares what it costs? It will be up to the promoter to come up with the cash to outfit each area with plexi-sheets over the lower half of the fence in high-risk areas.

If the cost comes down to the promoter of the race, then only the safety minded tracks/promoters will be able to host IndyCar races, eliminating poorly set up fiasco’s like Friday in Houston.

I think that street races are a more than welcome challenge to the stars of IndyCar, and there should undoubtedly be a few. This problem doesn’t just cover street courses, but ovals and a handful of road courses where the fencing poses a risk to the cars.

Let’s see some testing at the ‘Speedway next year IndyCar. We know IMS can afford to buy a little plexi, let’s see how it fairs with fans and drivers alike.

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About this article
Series INDYCAR
Article type Commentary
Tags crash, fencing, franchitti, houston, hurt, indycar, sato