Cup drivers anxious about SAFER wall

NASCAR Nextel Cup series teams expressed concern all weekend at Atlanta over the installation of the SAFER wall system at Darlington and their inability to test or get in an extra day of practice. The rumored Thursday practice session at ...

NASCAR Nextel Cup series teams expressed concern all weekend at Atlanta over the installation of the SAFER wall system at Darlington and their inability to test or get in an extra day of practice.

The rumored Thursday practice session at Darlington was nowhere to be seen when the Darlington schedule was announced in the drivers meeting Sunday, with teams set to arrive on Friday morning.

The SAFER wall system eats up 26 inches of Darlington's 1.366-mile track and racers fear that it will eliminate the existing groove. As an act of contrition for not allowing an extra day of practice, NASCAR will give teams an extra set of tires for morning practice on Friday.

Racers are concerned on how the SAFER walls will change their luck on the track, especially without extra practice time.

"I'm pretty anxious to get to Darlington," commented Dale Earnhardt, Jr. "I like it there. It's going to be different since they've installed soft walls. I'm kind of interested to see how much of the track has been taken away because of those soft walls. At that place, you use up every inch of race track they give you and hope by the end of the day you haven't painted the walls Budweiser red. We can win there."

Jeremy Mayfield, who placed second in Atlanta, also expressed concern on how the new walls will impact Sunday's event.

"I'm going to tell you how I feel about that. I don't understand," said Mayfield. "We just came from the fastest racetrack on the circuit. There's not a soft wall anywhere at Atlanta. Now we're going to Darlington, and you don't even need soft walls at Darlington. We need to run up close to the wall. I think that's the only place the asphalt is any good any more. They've taken it away. I think it might take some of the excitement out of Darlington.

"I think it adds a little extra excitement for the fans running up close against the wall. Now you're not going to be able ride up against the soft walls because the groove is not there. You run up against the wall because you go up there and the asphalt is a little better than what's below it. We're going to be sliding and sliding into the wall. Darlington is worried about keeping their date, but if the race is not any good, they might be losing their date."

How the steel tube and polystyrene foam construct walls will affect the racing at Darlington remains to be seen, there will be no answers until the first on track session Friday. The walls which are used to absorb energy during a high impact crash are out of the way at most of the venues that have installed them, but 'the lady in black' is a track where racers stick there cars right up against the wall. With the elimination of 26-inches, Cup teams have had to create new strategies for the upcoming race weekend.

And fans will see a much different race than what they are used to at Darlington. No longer will the cars rocket around dangerously close to the wall, which has provided for exciting race action in the past.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeremy Mayfield