News & Multimedia

SAFER barrier has accelerated racing safety for 10 years

It took trial and error, a lot of research, development, engineering and money to get it right, but now, in its 10th anniversary year, the brainchild of former Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George is installed at practically every big track in the nation.

It’s called the SAFER Barrier, and it basically reduces the energy of a crash and takes that energy lower for the driver. The SAFER Barrier was installed around all of the outside walls at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in time for the 2002 Indianapolis 500.

“We started with a safety committee,” said Phil Casey, now retired from his role as INDYCAR technical director. “Leo Mehl had us in a group … Brian Barnhart, Les MacTaggart, Dr. (Henry) Bock. They’d been doing a little testing at the University of Michigan.”

The first try – called PEDS – was installed inside the fourth turn at the Speedway in 1998. Arie Luyendyk hit it with an International Race of Champions (IROC) car in August 1998. The polyethylene barrier absorbed the impact but broke into pieces that scattered across the track.

“He hit it real hard, and it blew apart,” Casey said. “We talked to Texas A&M and University of Nebraska. We made a trip to Nebraska and did some tests and after a while, we formed a cushion and still stopped the car.

“We ran cars at 150 miles an hour into the barrier…Formula Ford 2000s, then wide cars, then NASCAR sent out some stock cars. We probably crashed about 30 in all. The first version (of the SAFER Barrier) was at the Speedway in 2002 and the second two years later with different lengths of steel tubing. Tony got NASCAR in on it. Jack Arute has the short track at Stafford Springs, Conn., and he put some in there.

“Iowa has it around the whole race track, and it’s the only one that does. It’s one of the biggest things that’s happened in high-speed racing.”

Ron Fowler, assistant director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and research assistant professor at Nebraska, worked on the technical end.

“John Pierce was contracted by IMS to determine if we had the capabilities,” Fowler said. “After we were hired, one of our first tasks was to modify the system that was used when Luyendyk hit in ’98.

“We had a team of research faculty, teaching faculty and graduate students working with materials we hadn’t worked with before. We had a core group of five that later grew to 35 people or more.”

The results turned out to be significant.

“We’ve noticed reductions in loading by 25-35 percent and up to 70 percent in certain situations,” Fowler said.

“The depth and breadth of this job was by far the most intense we had encountered up until that time. It required us to modify our thinking. This, so far, has been a very successful project. That success is only what we hear from drivers when they come out unharmed. That’s how to evaluate it. We continue today to make some minor tweaks to various components.”

Fowler said the concept may have some highway uses.

“We are currently working on taking the SAFER Barrier technology to highway applications,” Fowler said. “Tunnels or tight turns or other high-speed areas.”
 

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
SAFER barrier has accelerated racing safety for 10 years
 
SAFER barrier has accelerated racing safety for 10 years
“There’s no question in my mind that these SAFER barriers have saved a lot of lives.” --Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR Sprint Cup Talladega telecast, May 6, 2012.
Read More
Related Media
Turkey at IMS
 
10 Reasons for Every IMS Fan To Be Thankful
Thanksgiving is a time for family, for introspection about the route of our lives since last November and for counting blessings. It’s no different for fans of racing and of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So here are 10 things every IMS fan can be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Read More
Danica Patrick
 
Where Will Danica Land for Final Indy 500 Drive next May?
Not long after a tearful Danica Patrick announced the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil would be the final race of her career, the news was still very fresh for many Verizon IndyCar Series team owners to digest.
Read More
Danica Patrick
 
Danica Plans To Race in 102nd Indianapolis 500 Next May
Fan favorite Danica Patrick announced Friday, Nov. 17 she plans to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May 2018, the last start in her barrier-breaking career as a race driver.
Read More
Matheus Leist
 
Freedom 100 Winner Leist Completes AJ Foyt Racing Lineup for 2018
AJ Foyt Racing announced that 19-year-old Matheus Leist – from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil – will team with veteran Brazilian Tony Kanaan in the upcoming season.
Read More
TK Foyt Ride
 
Kanaan Looks Forward to May in Indianapolis with AJ Foyt Racing
As Tony Kanaan prepared to sign last month with AJ Foyt Racing for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the veteran driver did so with goals still to accomplish in mind.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 1,514
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day: https://t.co/yKQ6Db3YRK
May 21