Gordon blasts Atlanta track after hitting wall with no SAFER barrier
For the second week in a row, one of NASCAR’s superstars crashed hard and nearly head on into a section of wall where there was no SAFER barrier.
Last week at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a broken left foot in a hard crash at the end of the frontstretch in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was Jeff Gordon’s turn.
In his final race at the 1.54-mile oval, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion got hit by a spinning Jamie McMurray on the backstretch with 70 laps to go in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet bounced off the outside wall, went across the track and struck the concrete infield wall nearly head on, just a couple of feet past where the SAFER barrier ended.
Although Gordon was uninjured, he was not happy afterward.
"I am very frustrated with the fact there are no SAFER barriers down there," said Gordon, who in recent years has hit unprotected walls at Richmond, Las Vegas, Watkins Glen and now Atlanta. "I knew it was a hard hit. I was like, ‘Man I can’t believe (it).’ … I didn’t expect it to be that hard.
"Then I got out and I looked and I saw, ‘Oh, wow, big surprise. I found the one wall here on the back straightaway that doesn’t have a SAFER barrier.’"
And Gordon’s had enough of it.
"I don’t think we can say any more after Kyle’s (Busch) incident at Daytona," he said. "Everybody knows we have to do something, and it should have been done a long time ago. All we can do now is hope they do it as fast as they possibly can."
Later Sunday night, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp issued a statement on behalf of the sanctioning body.
"We have accelerated our review of safety advancements at each of our racing venues," the statement said. "This is an ongoing process that we will continue to approach aggressively and steadfastly in working with our track partners in the areas of safety."
In the wake of Busch’s crash, most of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit already have announced plans to improve safety.
Atlanta was one of those tracks. On Tuesday, the track issued the following statement:
"Following discussions yesterday between Atlanta Motor Speedway and NASCAR officials and a subsequent review of the existing SAFER barriers at the facility, AMS will add a number of additions to its existing barrier system. The protective wall at the exit of pit road near Turn 1 will be extended, and a tire barrier will be added along the inside wall of Turn 4 to offer supplementary safety protection. The installations will add a total of 130 linear feet of additional protective barrier prior to this weekend’s NASCAR events. Further review regarding future installation of additional SAFER barriers at the facility will take place following Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Atlanta Motor Speedway is dedicated to providing the safest possible facility for its fans and drivers."
"Thankfully there’s a lot of people paying attention to it and we can get this addressed," said race-winner Jimmie Johnson. "I’m under the impression that all the tracks are onboard and NASCAR is onboard. It’s unfortunate we’re so many years removed from the inception of the SAFER barrier. I think we’re on the right track and (will) have it everywhere it needs to be."
"This is something NASCAR has met with us about already," said Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano. "And they told us they’re going to do what they have to do, and the tracks seem to be open to doing what they have to do to help make our sport a little bit safer."