The International Speedway Corporation (ISC) will extend the use of SAFER barriers at Daytona following this year's Speedweeks. The changes come as a reaction to a crash in the Alert Today Florida 300, a NASCAR Xfinity Series race which saw Kyle Busch break his leg and foot. His car hit an unprotected portion of the track's inner wall.
NASCAR, which owns ISC, came in for heavy criticism following the crash as many asked why the company was investing over $400m in the Daytona Rising project but not improving track safety.
"The Daytona International Speedway did not live up to its responsibility today. We should have had a SAFER barrier there today, we did not. We're going to fix that" Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway claimed.
Ahead of the Daytona 500, the next race held on the circuit, a tyre wall was added at the point where Busch hit the wall. "Following the '500, the Daytona International Speedway is going to install SAFER barrier on every inch at this property. This is not going to happen again. We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now," Chitwood elaborated.
During a highly emotional post-race period, many figures in the media demanded that every wall inside and outside of every track should be fitted with a SAFER barrier but NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell rejected the suggestion that it was the right barrier for all scenarios, "NASCAR is not the only sanctioning body that races at a specific track. I can use Eldora, for instance, where a SAFER barrier was looked at, but wouldn't have been the safest solution."
In the wake of ISC moving to improve safety at Daytona, its sister venue Talladega also announced that it would deploy more extensive SAFER barriers. "We'll look at our facility and reassess how we can make it better for the competitors as we've done with the catchfences and other things over the past 20 years," Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch announced. "I think based upon what happened ... there will be a big focus on Talladega."
The SAFER barrier concept or 'soft wall' was introduced in 2002 after extensive testing. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first track to see it installed but its use is now widespread on oval tracks in the USA.