Debate: NASCAR's burning questions


Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in NASCAR this week:

Turn 1: Was Ryan Newman off base when he said "the safety is not up to NASCAR standards" at Watkins Glen International after he was involved in a violent multicar wreck Sunday?

Ed Hinton, Newman's complaints about safety have usually been when he was directly involved. With his engineer's training, that's one way he vents frustration after wrecks. The guardrail configuration at Watkins Glen usually dissipates energy well. And it's just impractical to put concrete walls and SAFER barriers all the way around a road course.

Brant James, He was not. Watkins Glen is a high-speed road course whose limits are further tested by the new aerodynamic packages employed on the current-generation Sprint Cup car. Drivers continue to find hardened spots around the 2.45-mile course, and when they do, those spots should be made more safe. It will be expensive. Those spots might not be hit again for a decade. That's the price of being in the big leagues.

Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine: Not at all. That barrier dates back to the F1 specs of the 1970s and has been outdated for at least 30 years. As speeds have increased, particularly over the past decade, we've also seen increasingly violent crashes that have bent that barrier to the breaking point. There's a repave coming at The Glen, and with it there needs to be some upgrades with those barriers. They know how to do this. In the past we've seen that track make changes in the run-off areas when accidents called for it, and The Glen was one of the first big-time tracks to experiment with foam blocks (see: Jimmie Johnson, Busch Series '00). My "SAFER Barrier Everywhere" mantra isn't really practical on road courses, but some SAFER mixed in with something -- anything -- more modern than the barriers from the movie "Rush" would be a nice start.

John Oreovicz, No, he was correct and I commend him for saying it. Much of The Glen's famous light-blue Armco dates to 1971, when the track was lengthened and upgraded to contemporary Formula One safety standards. F1 decided it wasn't safe enough anymore in 1980, and the barriers and other safety measures around the historic road course now are fundamentally the same as when NASCAR first raced there in 1984. The Glen is about to get repaved, and while the SAFER barrier isn't always feasible at a road course, it's the right time for International Speedway Corp. to invest in some safety upgrades as well. Let me also say that it's about time NASCAR started using a dedicated safety and medical rescue team similar to F1, Indy car and drag racing that travels to every Sprint Cup Series event.

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