Industry officials and experts have been busy pondering over what can be done to improve the catch fencing at race tracks.
In a piece penned by Curt Cavin in today’s Indianapolis Star, SAFER Barrier developer Dean Sicking vowed that “this problem will be solved” but also said that time and money will be major obstacles to any initiative.
“…We haven’t figured out how to (test) fly a car,” Sicking said to Cavin. “We have concepts for flying a car, but to start running the test is real money, and we don’t have that.”
There’s also the matter of balancing safety and the fan experience. For example, going with taller fences may provide more safety, but those could also hamper sight lines for spectators and force facilities to remove chunks of seats.
Another point: Figuring out materials for fencing that can not only protect the fans but maintain their visibility of the action on the track.
It all makes for a huge problem, and finding the solution would appear to be anything but a straightforward process.
“It’s a very difficult, delicate, sensitive balance between spectator protection, driver protection, sight lines and cost,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway director of engineering Kevin Forbes said in Cavin’s piece.
“It’s very challenging, because we don’t want to break the law of unintended consequences in terms of safety and sight lines. Certainly, we don’t want to make this worse.”
Catch fencing has been a major topic in recent years following the fatal crash of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but the outcry for improvements has escalated further since last Saturday’s final-lap accident in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. At least 28 fans were injured after debris from the hellacious wreck went into the front-stretch grandstands.
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
- 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.