Kevin Harvick has never been shy about speaking his mind, especially when it comes to his safety and that of his fellow competitors.
During his media session Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, Harvick made it clear that he wants to see more racetracks further expand installation of SAFER barriers.
While all Sprint Cup tracks have the speed absorbing barriers, several do not have them completely around both outside and inside retaining walls.
Harvick slid through the infield grass and hit hard into an inside retaining wall that was not protected by a SAFER barrier during last Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Although he was uninjured, Harvick did suffer soreness and just started feeling better Friday from the lick.
“The tracks, for the most part, don’t listen to really anything unless it’s profitable for their shareholders,” Harvick said. “So, when you see somebody spending $400 million dollars on their track and they don’t have soft walls around the inside, maybe they could spend $403 million to go ahead and finish the inside of the superspeedway there at Daytona.
“Yeah, I was sore all week. And just today I feel good enough to do what I need to do.”
Several other drivers have had similar hard wrecks into inside retaining walls that haven’t been protected by SAFER barriers at other tracks in recent seasons, including Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin suffered a serious back injury in his particular wreck last spring when his Toyota crashed into an unprotected inside retaining wall at Auto Club Speedway. The wreck forced him to miss four weeks of the Sprint Cup schedule.
Harvick had absolutely no control of his No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet at the time of Sunday’s wreck.
“It was just a weird situation,” Harvick said. “The car didn’t have any brakes or any steering and the throttle was partially hung coming off the wall and going through the wet grass and then into no SAFER barrier at the end of pit road there.
“So, it was a hard shot. It’s a little bit frustrating because it really shouldn’t even be a debate. I know they have data that shows where the most frequently hit spots are but we wear all this safety equipment and do all the things that we do to these race tracks for that one freak incident to keep things from happening like happened back in 2001 (when Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash at Daytona International Speedway).”
Harvick succeeded the late Earnhardt in what became the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
“It shouldn’t even be a debate,” Harvick said. “It’s just one of those things I guess that you just wait around for something else to happen and then they’ll fix it.”
DIS spokesman Lenny Santiago issued a statement in response to Harvick’s comments.
“Fan and competitor safety is a top priority at Daytona International Speedway,” Santiago said in the statement. “We work closely with NASCAR, the Motorsports Technology Group, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and its Midwest Roadside Safety Facility division on recommendations for placement of the SAFER Barriers. We continuously review incidents that take place with these experts, and make improvements based on their ongoing recommendations.”
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