IRL: Indy SAFER wall system reaction quotes

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 1, 2002 -- Reaction from Indy Racing League drivers and team owners about the SAFER wall system announced May 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The system will be used starting with Opening Day for the 86th ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 1, 2002 -- Reaction from Indy Racing League drivers and team owners about the SAFER wall system announced May 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The system will be used starting with Opening Day for the 86th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 5 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Pennzoil Panther Racing, 2001 Indy Racing League champions): "I'm very happy with the outcome of the 'soft wall' work that the IRL, NASCAR and the University of Nebraska have done. It looks very encouraging. I have seen some of the tests that have been conducted, and from where they started and where they finished it looks very good. It just shows how important safety is to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and these two great racing leagues. I know this undertaking has been very exhausting to all involved."

BILLY BOAT (1998 Indianapolis 500 pole winner): "The installation of the soft walls clearly shows that the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are at the forefront of new safety technology and driver safety. Hopefully this is just the first track of many to implement the changes."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (2001 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Safety first. I am glad we are coming up with something to protect the drivers. We are trying everything we can to make the cars safer; I am glad the tracks are willing to step up with this new system."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Indy Racing League has done a good job of getting everybody in a room and asking how do we make our cars safer, everyone from teams and drivers to chassis, engine and gearbox manufacturers. Over the past six years, we have reinvented open-wheel oval racing. The safety of these cars has improved dramatically. The next logical step had to be making the walls softer. On paper this sounds easy, but it has taken a huge investment in time, research and money. It took Tony's (George) commitment to make this happen."

BUDDY LAZIER (1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing League champion): "I think it is awesome. As a race driver that has suffered a serious injury, it is very, very comforting to know the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway go far and beyond what they have to do. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always been the center of innovation. Once again, they lead the industry."

GREG RAY (2000 Indianapolis 500 pole winner, 1999 Indy Racing League champion): "What I have heard on the outside is that the walls will be at places on the racetrack where on normal racing line if you're in the race, it's not going to affect the racetrack. It's not going to affect the width; it's not going to affect the track out or turn-in points like that. But if something goes wrong after turn-in and before the exit of the corner, I think the walls are meant to be in a position to where it could soften the blow of the concrete in a very sharp-angle accident. I'm sure they've done a lot of testing, and they've done a lot of computer simulations. I'm sure it will be an improvement. On this particular soft wall, this is brand-new technology for all of us; this is really cutting edge. As it gets implemented and things happen, we'll continue to learn. There's no doubt that everybody involved in the sport, everybody involved in the industry, needs to have open communication to talk about safety issues."

SAM SCHMIDT (Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I'm extremely proactive of anything that will decrease the effects of impact of the wall. I applaud Tony (George) for taking such a proactive stance. A lot of people only get fired up when something bad happens. Tony has been working relatively quietly on this for some time. He has invested a great deal of time and money. I think it is a step in the right direction. Obviously, it is not the complete answer. We live in a dangerous sport. If we can at least eliminate this (injuries) from happening one time out of 10, then it is worth it."

AL UNSER JR. (Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner): "I think it's great that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is implementing something that has been talked about for years on how to improve the safety of racing, in general. It does not surprise me at all that, again, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the leader in technology in safety all across the world. I think it's wonderful. It's great that it is happening at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway because they are the ones that have developed all of the safety technology and have been the leader in safety across the board from cars or racetracks or anything."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt
Teams Panther Racing