Denny Hamlin latest driver to call for more SAFER barriers


Denny Hamlin’s 2013 season was altered severely when he slammed head-on into a part of Auto Club Speedway’s inside retaining wall that wasn’t covered by a SAFER barrier.

Hamlin sustained a fractured vertebrae in the incident, which occurred after he battled on the final lap with Joey Logano last spring at Fontana. He missed four full races and his hopes for the Chase were effectively scratched.

Today at ACS, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said that it was time for more tracks to adopt the SAFER technology, echoing the comments made by Kevin Harvick earlier this month during the Phoenix weekend (Harvick crashed into an uncovered inside retaining wall during the previous week’s Daytona 500).

“Anywhere that we have a concrete wall should be covered by SAFER barrier,” he said. “There’s a lot of race tracks where you look at the map from the sky and my particular team has highlighted where there is no SAFER barrier at a lot of mile-and-a-half [tracks]. Eighty percent of the inside walls are not covered at all.

“Even though this is a small section that they have here at this track, it’s not just about this one. It’s about many, many other mile-and-a-half [tracks] – they have to improve on getting SAFER barriers where they should be. It could save someone one day. It should be at the highest priority.”

The good news is that Hamlin is feeling much better after having a full offseason to truly recover from the wreck.

“Physically, I feel really good, actually – the best I’ve felt back-wise in a really long time. I mean years and years,” he said. “I’m better than I was before the wreck, for sure.

“I had issues – degenerating disc issues that have plagued me for a long time and the wreck obviously made that a lot worse. I’ve found things that help me through that now and I hate to knock on wood and say cured me, but it’s really helped a lot. I’m past that part.”

Hamlin qualified 13th today for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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