For NASCAR, the safety challenge continues

NASCAR EVP Steve O'Donnell discusses the sanctioning body's effort to protect fans and competitors.

For NASCAR, the safety challenge continues
Steve O'Donnell
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
NASCAR Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell
Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet crashes into the catchfence
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in huge crash at the finish
Race winner Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in huge crash at the finish
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in huge crash at the finish
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in huge crash at the finish
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in huge crash at the finish

Just hours after Austin Dillon’s frightful crash, NASCAR was reviewing the accident and strategizing on how to improve the situation going forward. 

Tuesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell spoke of the changes the sanctioning body has made in recent years including changes in the cockpit at the start of the 2015 season.

He was quick to point out that both the catch fence and the car performed as it was designed to do at Daytona International Speedway during Dillon’s last lap wreck.

“First the good news, the fence did its job in terms of keeping the car back out on the track,” O’Donnell said. “The car, the safety area of the car, did its job for Austin to be able to walk away. So those are the things that we are most proud of in terms of all the works that goes on at the R&D Center that enabled us to be talking about that today and not something different.

“You can always learn. That’s where we are today, that’s not where we want to be going forward. That car and all its parts are back at the R&D Center. We’ve got a lot of new things that we implemented just this year with the new seven-to-nine point safety harnesses, the all-belts-to seats that we mandated that were part of that incident that I’m glad we put in place. The interval data recorder that we have that will give us really over 10,000 samples per second of that incident. That goes for 20 seconds.” 

O’Donnell said the IDR can record the exact speed Dillon was traveling at the time of the accident, the angle of the car when it became airborne, the hang time and what contributed to that, the force and speed of the impact, whether the seat moved on impact and what pieces came off of the car and why. 

 

NASCAR Sprint Cup 'All Belts to Seat' diagram
NASCAR Sprint Cup 'All Belts to Seat' diagram

Photo by: NASCAR Media

 

 

Despite Dillon’s wild ride, he credited NASCAR’s safety initiative with enabling him to walk away. 

I feel like it was the safety that made it possible for me to be here today.

Austin Dillon

“I feel like it was the safety that made it possible for me to be here today,” Dillon said. “The safety, from the Dow foam in the car and everything, every little bit goes a long way.  I think for me, just what we've been able to do to look at a horrific crash like that and be able to develop from it, and we'll develop from this one just like we have in the past.”

A never-ending job

As NASCAR continues to change the aerodynamics of the cars and teams continue to push the envelope when it comes to finding more speed, the sanctioning body cannot afford to become complacent in its development. O’Donnell says the staff at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. is constantly working to keep one step ahead. 

We know this is an inherently dangerous sport but the fans go there to be entertained.

Steve O'Donnell 

“Our guys John Patalak (Director, Safety and Structure), Tom Gideon (Senior Director, Safety) back at the R&D Center, David Green (Managing Supervisor, Safety Inspection) that’s all they do is work on safety,” O’Donnell said. “They’re going to be pouring over that data, see what improvements we can make from the car. Two things you never want to see from our guys is how did it get in the air and how did it get in the fence. Both of those we need to work and we are doing that.”

O’Donnell added that NASCAR is working with the tracks and perhaps “a third party” on ways to keep debris from showering the race fans. After Dillon’s wreck, 13 fans were attended to with only one guest electing  seek further assistance at a local hospital. 

“We know this is an inherently dangerous sport but the fans go there to be entertained,” O’Donnell said. “What can we do lead in this area and come up with some new technology that will benefit all of the sport especially the race tracks.” 

shares
comments
Jared, the Subway guy, at Daytona Saturday, in trouble Tuesday
Previous article

Jared, the Subway guy, at Daytona Saturday, in trouble Tuesday

Next article

NASCAR wants to talk with crew members who ran to Dillon's aid

NASCAR wants to talk with crew members who ran to Dillon's aid
Load comments
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021