Construction crews have been working long hours installing a new SAFER barrier along the inside wall of the back straightaway of the superspeedway this week.
I'm sure many of you remember Jeff Gordon's crash in that area during this year's Sprint Cup race. During that race, there was no SAFER barrier along the inside of the backstretch. Following that crash, our management team, officials from NASCAR and a team of engineers from the University of Nebraska decided to install a new barrier.
SAFER stands for Steel and Foam Energy Reduction. These barriers were first introduced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway about seven years ago. All NASCAR tracks now have SAFER barriers attached to most of their crash walls.
Gordon's crash in March attracted a great deal of media attention, so we decided to invite our local media out to the speedway on Thursday to get a first-hand look at the new barrier.
All four of Las Vegas' network television affiliates showed up at the speedway to film reports. We owe a special thanks to NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan. Brendan raced Wednesday night in Bristol, Tenn., hopped on an airplane after the race and flew to Las Vegas just to be available for interviews with the media. Brendan is from Las Vegas and his family owns the South Point Casino. He and his family are great friends of the speedway, so we were really happy that he was willing to come to town even though he now makes his home in Charlotte, N.C.
We were pleasantly surprised that John Rohde also made a visit to the speedway. Who is John Rohde? John is a professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and is part of the university's Midwest Roadside Safety facility, which helped develop the SAFER barriers. John and his partner Dr. Dean Sicking have worked with speedways and sanctioning bodies for several years studying crashes, wall angles and lots of data to help make the sport safer for the competitors.
John was very gracious with his time on Thursday, as he patiently answered several questions from the media who turned out.
I also want to offer big thanks to the men who are installing the barrier. These guys have been working during the overnight hours because of our August heat, but they stayed around until early afternoon to make sure the TV crews could get some of the crews at work.
The first drivers who will get a chance to test the new barriers will be the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pilots. The Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 is Sept. 20, and while we hope no one impacts the new barrier, the drivers know it's there.
And if you miss the local TV reports about the installation of the new SAFER barrier, make sure to click on the video on our website and see a full report on Monday's edition of This Week at LVMS.