NASCAR: Daytona adding more SAFER Barriers on outside wall

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Days before the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series return to Daytona International Speedway, the “World Center of Racing” has added new SAFER Barriers.

According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the new barriers have been installed from the exit of Turn 4 to the tri-oval and from the tri-oval to the entrance of Turn 1.

Altogether, the barriers are now along the outside wall from Turn 3 to the exit of Turn 2 at Daytona, plus the majority of inside retaining walls.

Multiple drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, have put pressure on tracks throughout NASCAR to install more of the energy-absorbing barriers.

Last May, Gordon declared that the barriers should be installed “everywhere” after he crashed into an unprotected portion of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s tri-oval wall during the 2013 Coca-Cola 600.

Then this past March, Kevin Harvick made a similar plea days after he crashed in the Daytona 500. Like Gordon’s Charlotte wreck, he hit an unprotected portion of wall – in his case, Daytona’s inside one.

Harvick particularly needled Daytona for its lack of barriers considering that it’s in the middle of their $400 million Daytona Rising renovation project.

He said at the time: “The tracks, for the most part, don’t listen to really anything unless it’s profitable for their shareholders. 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.”

Today, DIS spokesman Lenny Santiago told the News-Journal that the decision to install additional barriers came after a usual post-event sit-down with NASCAR.

“What we decided to do after consulting with NASCAR was install this [additional] SAFER barrier,” said Santiago. “This is Daytona and we want to make advances where we can.”

Additionally, Daytona has converted its former cross-over gates to a ramp-style design in order to have quicker foot traffic to and from the main grandstands.

Formula One’s Daniel Ricciardo drawn to NASCAR (and even NFL)

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MONTREAL (AP) Daniel Ricciardo drove go-karts while growing up in Australia and found himself drawn to stock car racing and the big personalities behind the wheels.

“I loved a lot of motorsports, but as far as the ovals go, I was more into NASCAR,” Ricciardo said this month. “Dale Earnhardt was kind of a hero of mine. The No. 3 – it was my first go-kart number, so I already had a bit of affection to No. 3. But being a fan of Dale’s as well, that definitely made me want to run that number.”

In an interview before the Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth in his No. 3 Red Bull, Ricciardo said he saw a lot of similarities between Earnhardt and three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna.

And he wanted to be like them.

“I was so ruthless on track,” Ricciardo said, recalling Earnhardt’s nickname: The Intimidator. “Everyone was intimidated by him. But off-track (they) had a massive following and could balance that aggressiveness with humility off of track. I thought both Senna and Earnhardt carried that really well.”

Speaking to reporters in a Montreal hotel fresh off his victory in Monaco – the seventh of his Formula One career – Ricciardo joked about having to share the spotlight back home after the win with Will Power, who won the Indianapolis 500 on the same day.

It was the first time drivers from the same country had won the two races on the same day. Britain (1965, 1966) and Brazil (1989, 1993) had claimed both victories in the same year.

Ricciardo, who is from Perth in Western Australia, said he was featured on the front page in his home state but didn’t know how the East Coast papers played the news; Power is from Queensland.

“I would probably guess both of us would have gotten – if not front page, the back page,” he said, chuckling. “And if not, shame on them.”

Although Ricciardo said he has followed Power’s career – the IndyCar driver is 9 years his senior – the two have never met. “But I was really happy for him because everyone that’s worked with him tells me that he’s a really hard worker and he’s earned every step of his career,” Ricciardo said.

Like the Indy 500 for IndyCar, Monaco is the signature race of the Formula One season, and Ricciardo’s victory gave him a newfound celebrity. After performing his trademark “shoey” – drinking champagne out of his racing boot on the victory podium, in front of the Monaco royal family – he continued the celebration later by diving into a rooftop swimming pool while still wearing his racing overalls.

It was the conclusion of a fun weekend for him.

Earlier, while standing on the bow of a boat in the port, Ricciardo caught a pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – thrown from another boat – and then booted the football back to the Brady on the other yacht.

“I spoke to him a bit. Super-nice guy. I’m sure he gets harassed everywhere he goes,” said Ricciardo, who like the five-time NFL champion is sponsored by Tag Heuer watches. “I never really have expectations when I meet someone of his caliber, but the fact that we spoke and he showed an interest and he was excited to be there, that was cool.”

But the encounter left Ricciardo with one, lingering letdown.

“Australian rules football, we’re used to that shaped balls, catching and kicking. I grew up doing a lot of that. So that’s why I thought I would maybe impress a few people,” he said. “The only thing I’m really, really disappointed with is I haven’t gotten a call from the Patriots yet.

“They’ve got to spot talent when they see it,” he said with a laugh. “I mean this kid can catch. And I can run.”