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Barrier designer brings racer protection to the forefront

Traditional race track barricades have come under scrutiny due to the rising awareness of injuries and fatalities directly related to concrete walls, Armco guardrails or tire packs, which have been the status quo in driver protection for over 60 years. It’s estimated that at least 100 pro racer deaths have been attributed to walls. Also at risk are the hundreds of thousands of amateur racers, a large and fast-growing group known as HPDEs, who drive on the same tracks as pros, but have much less experience or protective equipment.

To date, a centralized source for barrier information didn’t exist. Impact Safety Systems (ISS), an established U.S. barrier manufacturer, took the initiative and hired an outside firm to research and aggregate the vast, complex data available into one consolidated resource for the reference and benefit of race tracks and drivers. The project took nine months of sifting through websites, literature, testing reports, articles and other public domain information to arrive at a barrier comparison that provides as comprehensive and as unbiased an overview as possible. The purpose of this project is to facilitate barrier safety improvements at tracks. Though the conclusion of the comparison does highlight the advantages of ISS Barriers, ISS acknowledges that one solution can’t fit all tracks. Certain barricades, or a combination thereof, may work better for some tracks than for others. No matter which solution they choose, if safety upgrades are being made by tracks that were originally using concrete walls, guardrails or tires as primary barricade methods, it’s a win for everyone.

Over the last year, ISS has also been producing a new 6-minute video designed to demonstrate exactly how their barriers work and why they are one of the safer, more flexible and, ultimately, most cost-effective options for road courses and short tracks, as well as ovals where NASCAR’S SAFER Barrier isn’t available or feasible. Although the video functions as a promotional piece, it also undeniably acts as an educational tool for track safety.

The driving force behind both initiatives is to bring forth the realization that something must be done to upgrade or provide buffering for legacy track barricades, which simply aren’t providing enough protection or, in some cases, are causing more harm than good. After 40 years of racing and countless crashes involving old-school barricades, RJ Valentine, founder of ISS and winning pro driver, feels it’s his duty to inspire safety changes.

Valentine says, “Even if tracks choose an alternative barrier, at least they’re moving forward with attempts to mitigate harm and will potentially save some lives. Many of the growing number of serious injuries, concussions and driver deaths were/are preventable—all that’s required to do so is to mitigate the impact with a softer landing.”



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