Saturday, May 5, 2012

NASCAR, Talladega skirt major disaster with Eric McClure wreck

NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure pounded an inside wall equipped with a SAFER barrier on the backstretch of Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday in a vicious crash. Although the crash sent him to the hospital, he was only a few hundred feet away from crashing into a wall that could've done much more serious damage.

The SAFER barrier is a combination of steel and foam that absorbs energy during a hard crash. However, Talladega does not have SAFER barriers on all of its walls. In fact, an exposed concrete wall sits along the backstretch towards Turn 3 not far from where McClure hit.
McClure had to be airlifted out of the track and taken to the hospital for further evaluation after his #14 car collided with the SAFER barrier. Had he hit the nearby concrete wall, well, Talladega Superspeedway might have had a much worse situation on its hands.
That is why it is mind-boggling that race tracks still don’t cover every wall with a SAFER barrier. One of the common phrases about wrecks in auto racing is that if there is an unsafe spot at a race track, a car is sure to eventually find it.
Jeff Gordon found exposed concrete walls at both Las Vegas and Richmond in recent years, Elliott Sadler found an unsafe wall at Pocono two years ago, and several drivers found the walls surrounding the final turn at Watkins Glen to be very dangerous in the past few years.
Each of those tracks have since fixed its problems and retroactively installed SAFER barriers to cover the previously exposed walls, but why does it take a hard wreck to identify problem spots at a track?
Sure, SAFER barriers are expensive to install, but if tracks are going to fork out the money to install the barriers on some parts of their walls, why not cover every wall? Driver safety has to be a higher priority than money.
It is extremely unfortunate, and considering the technology NASCAR and its tracks have in 2012, slightly barbaric to not have SAFER barriers on any wall both on the outside and inside parts of the track, excluding pit wall because that would be a safety hazard for crew members going over the wall on a pit stop.
Most tracks, including Talladega, still don’t have SAFER barriers on their straightaways. Yes, a crash is more likely to occur in a corner, but a car running 200 mph on the bottom lane is going to hit the outside wall with quite an impact if it gets turned sideways.
McClure’s wreck showed that drivers can still be injured even with a SAFER barrier, but the severity of his injuries might have been much worse had he hit an unprotected wall.
Somebody is going to take a hard lick in Sunday’s race, but hopefully nobody finds a wall that doesn’t have a SAFER barrier.
Sadly, NASCAR officials, drivers, teams and fans still have to hold their breath and hope that doesn’t happen because hitting an unprotected wall is still a possibility.


  1. We met Eric this year in Vegas. He is an awesome friendly man!! Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family!!
    Love you Eric!!

  2. Great thoughts and I was shocked to not only see an unprotected wall but did you notice the guard-rail like wall even closer to the point of McClure's impact? That concerns me almost more because that could shred or split the car. I don't know what they could do, honestly... but still.

    As far as Watkins Glen, I'd like to know if they've fixed anything following Reutimann's flip. I haven't found anything to suggest otherwise.

    Yes, praying for Eric. From all the media has released, he's okay. So that's very good news if it is true.