IRL: Indy soft wall project press conference, Part II

April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Part 2 of 2 - Media questions to Barnhart King: Questions? Back here in the back first. Q: Brian, would that be around inside and outside if you try it? One corner the whole way around? Barnhart:...

April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Part 2 of 2 - Media questions to Barnhart

King: Questions? Back here in the back first.

Q: Brian, would that be around inside and outside if you try it? One corner the whole way around?

Barnhart: Robin, I think right now if the results are positive and what we're preparing for from a Speedway standpoint, is our initial installation will be on the outside walls of all four corners. One thing that I think that will be important to keep in mind is, again pending the results of those tests and if this goes up, our installation will be done in a manner in such that we are not going to affect the racing line on the racetrack at all. I'll talk a little bit about that What we did earlier, Kevin Forbes and Mel Harder and myself went out on the racetrack here at Indianapolis and identified -- as often as you paint the walls here at Indianapolis, one thing that doesn't go away is the skid marks on the racetrack -- identified in all four corners the apex of each corner. We went forward of the apex and marked and indicated the earliest skid marks in each of the four corners and found out how early the first crash has taken place in any of our four corners here. It happens to be in Turn 1. We added a safety margin to that number and the installation, if it takes place, would mirror that number plus the safety margin for where the wall would start. It would taper into full width in the apex of the corner and then taper down to nonexistent at the exit of all corners, 1, 2, 3 and 4, so that as you are accustomed, a driver exiting out of the corners and putting his right-side tires up against the white wall, he will still be able to do so. Our reason for that is if a car hits a wall in those areas, his angle of impact is so minimal that the forces seen by the car are in the realm that we are acceptable with from a driver sustaining injury standpoint. The angle of impact is so low, the numbers seen in the car are not very high at all. We feel it is important not to affect the racing line around the racetrack here, especially a track as flat as Indianapolis, and the installation would be such that we wouldn't affect the line. But we would have it in the areas where the majority of impacts take place and the higher angle of impacts and the higher forces seen in the car would be

Q: Brian, what are the applications about addressing the problems of sudden-stop syndrome, closed-head injury and so forth. I take it the best helmet there is can't deal effectively with that.

Barnhart: Well, the sudden-stop syndrome that you're talking about, with regards to the soft wall, that's the pocketing and the snagging that we identified with our first one. The barrier that we're currently working on, we're now at a point where we're comfortable we've addressed the issue of snagging and pocketing. The coefficient of friction of concrete is one of the big advantages that concrete has out there. The car slides along the concrete. The design that we currently have, we've addressed that issue, and we feel very comfortable that that's not going to be an issue if we go forward with the soft wall.

Q: So how thick is it? And what is your goal of max sustainable G's? What is the max negative G's you're looking at that the driver would see? And how thick is the barrier?

Barnhart: I don't think there's any goal we have as far as what the max G's are that a driver would see because they vary so much with every individual accident. Accidents are so widely varied from all kinds of, you know, angle of impact, speed, velocity, mass, all of those things. Each individual accident is just that, it's individual. Our whole goal is to reduce the forces seen by the driver by a certain percentage. That will vary again because of those variables. We just want to create a scenario that we have reduced the forces seen on the car to an area that is much more survivable for the driver and put him in an area where he is less likely to be injured. As far as the actual specifics of the wall, at this point in time, for legal reasons, I'm not in a position where I can talk about its design, its installation, its materials or any of its applications.

Q: Brian, at this point is this a one-size-fits-all? In other words, what you put up for the Indy 500, would it work as well for the Brickyard 400? And what you can use at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, would it work at any major racetrack in the country or does it have to be refined for each individual use?

Barnhart: There are fine touches that would be used depending on the application. But as a track owner and promoter, they are very minor modifications and basically just dependent on what's running that weekend. If you have a Winston Cup event here or if you have an Indy-car event, it would be a very minor modification. It is universal applications everywhere.

Q: Brian, when it is hit, depending on the hardness of the hit, does the panel have to be replaced? If so, how long does it take?

Barnhart: From the previous 17 crash tests that we have done at the University of Nebraska, the panels do not have to be replaced.

Q: Brian, as kind of a follow-up to Robin's question, is there a possibility, then, there might be soft wall installed to the inside walls to a couple of key areas coming off 2 and 4 that have seen accidents in the past?

Barnhart: Yeah, I think we would eventually get there. I think if the tests that are scheduled for the rest of this month go as well as we're hoping and the decision is made to go forward with this, I think our initial plan will be to put them on the outside walls first. For obvious reason, they're hit a lot more than the inside walls are. Just from a timing standpoint, I think Mel Harder from the Speedway can probably address this, and Kevin Forbes, installation times involved, eventually, yes, we would see it on the inside walls of 2 and 4 but I'm not sure we would get those up in time for May.

King: So you know, Mel is here today, and I'm assuming if someone has questions for you afterward, maybe you'll be able to answer it? We'll see. This is Mel Harder, he is here today and Brian has referenced him a couple of times today.

Q: Brian, how much would it cost other tracks to use this technology and put it in their facility? My other question is: Are you talking to any other tracks? Is anyone else on board with this technology?

Barnhart: Well, I think in answer to talking to other tracks, because of our involvement with NASCAR and, obviously, I think all of the tracks that are owned by ISC corporation are very aware of what we're doing and where we're going. As far as the cost right now, it's kind of preliminary to guess, but I would say you're probably somewhere between $160 and $175 per linear foot to install it.

King: Any other questions?

Q: I understand you can't get into real specifics, but can you compare it at all to the PED system, which we've seen or even contrast it? Is it remotely like that?

Barnhart: Probably not to the point that it would be what you're looking for right now. It has evolved from the original PEDS wall, but I will tell you the design is considerably different and the materials are different.

Q: Brian, I just happened to think about this. What's the burn factor of this material or is that a factor at all or fire?

Barnhart: It's not a factor.

King: Any other questions? Yes, sir.

Q: How long does it take to install these? Will they be up for the entire practice session?

Barnhart: That's probably a question that would be better addressed to Kevin and Mel from the Speedway. We did a mock installation of about a 60-foot section about a month ago so that the Speedway got a good idea of how long it takes to install it. It's in 20-foot sections and they got an idea how long it would take to install those three sections and then appropriately how long it would take to do the entire racetrack. Certainly it would be our goal to have it up as quickly as possible if we decide to go forward with it.

King: Brian, I know this would be speculation on your part, but based on what you've seen in the tests, would this revolutionize the safety aspect of oval racing from what you've seen so far?

Barnhart: It's something we're very proud of. I think Tony George has been the leader in developing this product for the last five years or so. I certainly think if we get it to this point and we can put it on the outside walls of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway historically has been the leader in safety innovations ever since the -- you know, when the place was first built as a test facility and from the first race won by Ray Harroun, the introduction of the rearview mirror and every safety innovation that's come on board since, it's just another continuation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being a leader in the safety areas.

Q: Brian, is there anybody at Nebraska that you'd like to single out that's really been a key developer in this deal or anybody here like with Kevin?

Barnhart: The two guys that have been working very closely with the project in Nebraska are Dr. Dean Sicking and Dr. Ron Faller.

King: Let's take one more.

Q: Brian, can you give us a ballpark on how much distance? You talked about the four corners but what's the total amount of distance you'd need to cover here?

Barnhart: I think our preliminary number was in the ballpark of 4,400 or 4,500 feet.

King: OK. Will you be available for one-on-ones or are you having to take off?

Barnhart: Actually, I have to go.

King: So Brian will not be available for one-on-ones. A big announcement today. I think you've taken a lot of people by surprise here today. I know I am. Brian, thanks an awful lot for being here with us and not once, but twice today. Reminder to you, upstairs lunch at 11:30. The Corvette Pace Car luncheon and they'll have details on media rides then. Thank you very much for being here. It's going to be a busy day. Also want to remind you -- what was the other note we needed? Oh, transcripts, if you do not receive the IMS Public Relations Department transcripts by e-mail now or the Indy 500 transcripts, see Josh or any member of the IMS Media Staff and they'll make sure you get transcripts of all of today's press conferences. Thanks a lot.


Part I - King interview with Barnhart: Part I

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Series Automotive , Formula 1 , IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony George