NASCAR at Dover notebook: Walls at Dover get SAFER over the summer

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick

DOVER — It didn’t take long for NASCAR and Dover International Speedway to react to criticism by some drivers regarding the track’s Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers (SAFER) after a fiery, metal-grinding crash took place during a practice session in May.

When the stars of NASCAR hit the high banks of Dover for practice and qualifying today there will be around 500 feet of new SAFER barriers that have been added to the high-banked, one-mile oval over the summer in the name of added safety.

The barriers, designed to lessen the severity of an impact, have been added to the outside wall in the second turn, under the walkover bridge, and the outside wall of the fourth turn, entering the frontstretch.

All of the SAFER barriers have been added to existing walls by Smyrna’s Kent Construction and North Industrial Machine of Hartsville, S.C.

“We continue to improve our facility for all parties involved in NASCAR, including drivers, race teams and fans,” Dover International Speedway President and CEO Mike Tatoian said. “Safety is always our top priority and the added SAFER barriers will certainly benefit our competitors.”

During that practice session last May, Danica Patrick’s Chevrolet spewed smoke and broke loose exiting the fourth turn before the rear end of her car erupted into flames as she spun down the frontstretch.

Tony Stewart, Patrick’s car owner and teammate, and Jamie McMurray both crashed hard into an area of the fourth-turn wall after driving into oil left on the track by her car. They hit the outside wall where there was no SAFER barrier installed.

Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season due to a back injury he suffered in an off-road crash in the offseason, walked gingerly to the ambulance after his car came to a stop against the pit wall.

McMurray was also collected in the crash and appeared to suffer an injury to his elbow.

Some of the competitors weren’t very happy with the lack of SAFER barriers on the outside of the fourth-turn wall following the crash.

“I think I saw it’s about twice the G-load impact when you hit a non-SAFER barrier,” said Patrick. “It shouldn’t even be a question whether or not tracks have SAFER barrier all the way around. It should be mandatory. It shouldn’t be a financial decision.”

The most common argument against SAFER barriers along Dover’s frontstretch is that it would change the racing line here. But several drivers said that wouldn’t be a problem.

“We put SAFER barriers in the groove at Darlington and it’s two-and-a-half cars wide,” said Kevin Harvick. “So, there’s really no excuse not to have it in my opinion. … We don’t wear our helmets and HANS devices for the impacts that we are prepared for. We wear those things for the instances where those one-off things can happen like happened [in May].”

More elbow room in the garage

Another project by Dover International Speedway over the summer has increased the amount of usable space for NASCAR haulers in the Sprint Cup Series garage.

Over the summer, a 753-foot-long concrete wall separating the Sprint Cup garage area from the existing harness racing track was built by Smyrna’s Kent Construction.

The 10-foot-high wall stretches from the Infield Media Center to the end of the Sprint Cup garage, removing the grass hill between the garage area and harness track that was in place.

“The renovations in the garage will also allow us greater opportunities for space flexibility in the coming years too,” Tatoian said.

NASCAR Hauler Parade canceled

The NASCAR Hauler Parade that was scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. at Legislative Mall on Thursday was canceled due to rain for the third-consecutive year.

The parade was to feature the brightly colored tractor trailers that haul the Sprint Cup Series race cars from track to track.

Once again, Mother Nature had other ideas.

Heroes Haven to honor military member at Dover

Military member Steven Prince will get the VIP treatment in Saturday’s Driver Sober 200 Xfinity Series race at Dover.

Heroes Haven will be partnering with JD Motorsports and driver Garrett Smithley for the race. Heroes Haven is an organization that works with American military members to honor and support those who have sacrificed for their country.

Prince will be the team’s special guest on Saturday and will be made an honorary crew member with a spot atop the team’s pit box.

The partnership was made possible by Ken and Tracy Adams of Georgetown.

“These service men and women have done so much for us,” JD Motorsports team owner Johnny Davis said. “It’s the least we can do. We enjoy working with the Heroes Haven folks at Dover. It’s an honor for us to be involved with them.”

Two local businesses set to sponsor Xfinity team

Iron Source and Meding’s Seafood are teaming up to sponsor an Xfinity Series race team at Dover for an eighth consecutive time.

Ryan Preece, driver of the JD Motorsports No. 01 Chevrolet, will have sponsorship in Saturday’s Drive Sober 200 from Iron Source, which has locations in Smyrna and Georgetown, and Meding’s Seafood in Milford.

Preece, 25, is competing for Rookie of the Year this season.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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