Mike Harmon's wreck at Bristol during practice was one
of the worst we have seen on oval tracks.
NASCAR has seen
their share of spectacular crashes. Michael Waltrip had
crash in the Busch series many years ago, Geoffrey Bodine
suffered a horrible crash at Daytona in the inaugural
Daytona 250 for the truck series, and two weeks ago at
Bristol, Mike Harmon suffered what had to be one of the most
horrible, and miraculous accidents in motor racing history.
All three of
these accidents have had one similarity, the cars hit a
barrier that gave way and ripped the car to pieces. All of
the drivers have thankfully been able to go on and race
has said several times that he’s heard people comment about
his crash and say that it was a bad day. Waltrip will just
reply that it was a very good day because he was able to
continue doing what he loved. When describing the crash,
he says what was really strange about it was that he was
able to look down at his feet after the car stopped and he
could see the racing surface.
If you look at a
still photo of Mike Harmon’s crash, you can see his body is
completely exposed. He was able to unbuckle his seat and
literally walk away because the right side of the car was
completely sheared off. Speculation of what caused the
crash was his right front tire being cut. His car then
shot directly toward the gate, which unfortunately had not
been blocked off properly. The gate then gave way and
Harmon’s car impacted the end of the cement barrier.
seeing Geoffrey Bodine’s truck accident live on ESPN. I
just stared in shock over what I had just seen. It is a
miracle that no one was fatally injured. If you look at
some of the still photos of his accident, you can see his
arms completely exposed as they are flung out of the
truck. There were even scuff marks on his helmet from
where it scraped against the pavement.
While soft walls
do save lives, they can also be a major danger to the
drivers. NASCAR has said that they have resisted the soft
walls for now because of the fact that they could rip the
car apart. I think the best innovation to hit auto racing
safety this year has been the SAFER barrier, which was used
during the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 this
year. The SAFER barrier is basically a cross between a
hard wall and a soft wall.
The cars impact
a steel barrier which has several layers of foam between it
and the concrete barrier. The steel is designed to prevent
the car from getting lodged in the soft barrier, which could
result in further damage.
I can certainly
understand why NASCAR has put off the soft wall “revolution”
considering what a soft wall could potentially do to a
car. But with the SAFER barrier now ready, we could see it
at many tracks in the near future.
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