Accident brings attention to safety

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Aug 11 1479

During a stoppage after a spectacular wreck sent Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell into Armco barriers on either side of the short straight between Turns 5 and 6 at Watkins Glen, drivers expressed concern over the guard rails in common use at the Glen.

But drivers weren’t in agreement as to what sorts of barriers might be preferable. Watkins Glen has made a number of safety enhancements in recent years, and NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton indicated the process is under constant review.

“It’s a constant improvement process,” Pemberton said during a televised interview with ESPN during a red-flag period that lasted more than an hour while track workers repaired the Armco barriers. “And as you know, many of the places we go to, the facilities, are multi-purpose, and we’re only here one weekend a year—and it’s busy throughout the rest of the year.

“Watkins Glen has made great advancements. You remember Turn 1 and 2 and all that, moved grandstands and fencing and SAFER barriers, and that’s worked quite well for us. But not all places are places for SAFER barriers. There are different types of systems to help slow cars down.”

Typically, Pemberton said, the sanctioning body reviews possible safety enhancements with all venues that host NASCAR events.

“We do a lot of inspections, and we look at places that need improvement, Pemberton said. “And there’s a priority list as far as what turns and what straightaways and things line that that you need to work on. It’s an ongoing process.”