SI Vault
October 31, 2011
Racing will never be 100% safe, but steps must be taken now to save lives
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October 31, 2011

Up Against The Wall

Racing will never be 100% safe, but steps must be taken now to save lives

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3. End double-file restarts

Drivers have complained to Bernard that the double-file starts, in which cars line up two abreast after a caution, need to end. Bernard implemented these restarts, which are used in NASCAR, at the beginning of the season to increase the excitement factor, even telling reporters that they lead to more wrecks—a statement that Bernard has since said he regrets.

4. Raise the SAFER walls

Las Vegas has SAFER walls—steel tubing backed by foam blocks that absorb the impact in a crash—lining the track, but Wheldon died after hitting the steel catch fence above the wall. Higher walls in the corners would make a difference.

5. Cover the back wheels

Next season IndyCar will unveil a new car that Wheldon helped test several times over the last few months. The cockpit is longer and wider, allowing for additional padding to protect the driver, and the rear wheels will be partially covered. Would this new design have saved Wheldon's life? Possibly, because he was launched into the air when he drove over the right rear wheel of Paul Tracy.

These recommendations and other technological advances will continue to address the dangers of the sport, but safety is a race with no finish line. As Dale Earnhardt Jr., who knows as much about the risks as anyone, put it after Wheldon's death, "Racing has gotten so much safer in recent years, but it's still not 100 percent safe. In racing, there are no guarantees."

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