Following Tuesday's initial day of testing for the Brickyard 400, NASCAR held a safety meeting update for drivers, crew chiefs and team owners. Ford Racing spoke to some of its drivers about the meeting and their feelings on the SAFER barrier that...
Following Tuesday's initial day of testing for the Brickyard 400, NASCAR held a safety meeting update for drivers, crew chiefs and team owners. Ford Racing spoke to some of its drivers about the meeting and their feelings on the SAFER barrier that is currently in place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
DALE JARRETT --88-- UPS Taurus
THIS IS THE SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR A SAFETY MEETING LIKE THIS HAS BEEN HELD. WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THIS ONE? "I think there's always something for us to learn and it's not only interesting but beneficial to everyone to know what and how much is going on behind the scenes because normally we only hear bits and pieces. To have these gentlemen actively looking for safer ways for our sport to operate, it's nice. And for them to enlighten us in speaking terms that we can understand is also a big help because I'm sure a lot of the things they work on are a lot more complicated than what most of us could comprehend, but they put it to where we understand what's going on. One of the things that was touched on was soft walls. They talked about why the process takes longer. You generally would think that putting something up there that's softer has got to better, but that's not necessarily the case. The information on the fire suits and the clothing you wear under it was very interesting and I think there were a lot of positives that came out of this meeting. I think it's good that NASCAR has taken the initiative to say, 'OK, we're gonna take a little bit of your time just to help you understand what's going on.'"
WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT MADE YOU RAISE YOUR EYEBROWS AND SAY, 'I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT?' "I think I probably look at the soft wall situation. They're looking for perfection and we should appreciate that. After a car hits that at 145 or 150 miles an hour, they want it to bounce back and be the same. They don't want it to be hampered at all even for the rest of that race and that was pretty amazing to me -- that they're gonna be able to get to that. They've narrowed that margin so much in a short period of time that they're gonna make that happen and that was pretty incredible. I think the other thing was looking at the fire suit situation. We kind of take for granted what we have and there are better opportunities out there. We can probably work within the same company we're getting them made from, but that's not something you'd like to test, so getting that information was helpful."
WITH THE FIRE SUIT IT'S ACTUALLY BETTER TO HAVE IT FITTING LOOSER THAN TIGHTER, CORRECT? "Yeah. I found it very interesting that the looser your uniform fit the better it was for you. It makes sense after you hear it, but I would have never put that together. You see these guys walking around trying to show off the bodies they've sculpted in the gym, but you've got to look at it a little differently now. I thought that information was really helpful."
WHAT ABOUT HAVING THE SAFER BARRIER HERE AT INDIANAPOLIS? "I hope I don't have to test it, first off, but I think it's great that we have them here. This is a place, with our stock cars, that you're running over 200 miles an hour down into these corners and usually when we hit here, it's extremely hard with a big impact. So I like the idea of what we have here. I think NASCAR and everyone working in this area has done a good job helping us get to this point. I know there is still a lot of work to do so that it can be beneficial to us at other race tracks, but it's nice to know that we're coming to a place where it has been tested and I feel very comfortable with what we have."
SOME PEOPLE HAVE WONDERED WHY THIS SYSTEM HASN'T BEEN APPROVED TO GO UP AT OTHER TRACKS ON THE CIRCUIT. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE PACE AT WHICH THIS IS EVOLVING? "Yeah. I mean, we'd always like for it to be quicker just like us here. We'd like to find something that would make us a tenth of a second faster right off the bat, but those things are hard to come by. Whenever you're really fine-tuning, which is basically what they're doing right now, you want to make sure that you don't create a bigger hazard or more of an injury and you have to appreciate that. You don't want a situation where the wall might throw the car back into the racing groove and create a bigger accident, or have something that is gonna be all over the race track when an accident happens. You don't want them to put it up there and say, 'Well, we think this will be better.' You have to really commend NASCAR and everyone working in this area for waiting until they have everything exactly like they want it before we start it at other race tracks for that very reason."
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SAFETY MEETING? "I actually went to dinner with Mike (Beam) and Roy (McCauley) and we talked about it and all of us mentioned how nice it is to have that open forum and that continuation of discussion. It was very good because it gives everybody a chance to meet and explore all of the things going on right now in our sport from a safety standpoint."
WHAT DID YOU TAKE OUT OF THE MEETING? "I came away from it knowing that they're exploring a lot of different areas. They confirmed a lot of the things that we've done. I think the PPI seat has touched on some of the issues relating to the seats and how the head and shoulder supports need to be tied together. I think that this seat captures that in a wonderful way. The idea and the concept of the seat having to be very, very strong and rigid as opposed to the old way of thinking that maybe the seat needed to give a little. I think we all know now that the seat needs to be very, very strong and, again, we capture that with this seat."
THE SAFER BARRIER SYSTEM IS IN PLACE HERE. HAVE YOU TAKEN A LOOK AT IT OR DO YOU NOTICE IT AT ALL ON THE TRACK? "No, I haven't. Our objective yesterday was to run each of the two Tide Fords and may the better car win. We did that and we've got one car that we're going to focus the entire day on today. That was a good meeting and I enjoyed it, but today we're just putting all of our effort into this car."
KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus -- ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH EVERYTHING BEING DONE TO MAKE THIS KIND OF RACING SAFER EVERY WEEK? "Oh, for sure. NASCAR has made the right steps in hiring professionals in the business of safety. Whether it's the mechanics of it, the fireproofing of it, the barriers we're running into or the pieces that are on the car, there are different percentages that we've taken that takes away the blow as far as taking care of that egg in the basket. I think NASCAR has done the right things. We've done stuff to incorporate things inside the race car and we've done things to incorporate things outside the race car now, so it's just a matter of time before we're running into soft walls instead of concrete walls."
DO YOU HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE KNOWING THE SAFER BARRIER IS HERE? "Yeah, Tony George has always been an innovator of safety and in taking care of the drivers out there on the race track. NASCAR feels the same way and with the way everything has progressed, it's gonna end up being the best of both worlds for open wheel and stock car racing. Everybody is making the right steps and it's just a matter of time before everything is perfect."
WHAT DID YOU TAKE OUT OF THE SAFETY MEETING YESTERDAY? "Last year we sat down in the same meeting and they briefed us on the Earnhardt tragedy and what they were gonna do as far as the steps to take after that. They gave us an outline last night of what has transpired over the year. They've seen the progress everybody has made as far as adjustments we've incorporated into the car, and now they're taking us to the next level of understanding the crash barriers that we're running into. The plan is to just keep going to that next level."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE PROCESS GOING ON AS FAR AS SOFT WALLS AND SAFETY IN GENERAL? "It's a process of evolution. You can't just strap it down and hope to go race with it, whether you have a problem with it or not, so things have to be proven. It's just like when we come here to do a test -- you have to put a spring in to know exactly what it does. We know what it says on it, we know what it looks like, we know what color it is, but we've got to test it and understand it and it takes time to do that. So it's not just gonna happen overnight and the things that they've done, I think, have been in a process where we can all understand and the way things have stepped forward is adequate as far as the time."
DO YOU LIKE MEETINGS LIKE THAT? "For sure. It really gets everybody informed and keeps everybody on the same page. If there are any questions out there, they get answered up front. I like that because then nobody has any questions behind the scenes."