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
Red Bull Air Race Calendar
 
IMS to Host Red Bull Air Race Season Finale
The Racing Capital of the World will crown a new champion in 2017, with the Red Bull Air Race hosting its season finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oct.14-15. Tickets and hangar passes are on sale now at www.ims.com/tickets.
Read More
James Hinchcliffe
 
IndyCar Media Day Features Offseason Tales, Preseason Optimism
Helio Castroneves insists he’s getting younger. Will Power is taking more selfies now that he’s a father. Conor Daly is still rooming with James Hinchcliffe. And Oriol Servia is working out in the same Gold’s Gym as Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Read More
Rev Indy
 
Newgarden Named Honorary Chair for 2017 Rev presented by Fifth Third Bank
Methodist Health Foundation announces Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden as the Rev 2017 honorary chair, for the fourth annual event taking place May 6 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
A.J. Foyt Racing
 
AJ Foyt Racing Partners with Chevrolet for 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Season
It is a reunion for team owner A.J. Foyt, whose last race as an Indy car driver came with Chevy power at the 1992 Indianapolis 500 and whose Verizon IndyCar Series team ran Chevrolet engines as recently as 2005 with grandson A.J. Foyt IV at the wheel.
Read More
Spencer Pigot
 
Pigot Joins Ed Carpenter Racing Lineup for 2017 Road and Street Courses
Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion and winner of more Mazda Road to Indy developmental series races than anyone (24), competed in 10 Verizon IndyCar Series races last season, split between Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing. He drove in the season’s final seven road/street races for ECR, posting best finishes of seventh at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and ninth at Road America.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,410
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 Laura Wyamn at (317) 492-8557 or email at lwyman@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
ICYMI - Yesterday's @IndyCar Media Day Features Offseason Tales, Preseason Optimism https://t.co/59nS0bHu95 https://t.co/NksvyAlfT9
about 7 hours ago