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What Safety Improvements can NASCAR Make Following the Ryan Preece Crash?

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Ryan Preece’s crash on Saturday night sent shockwaves through everyone in the NASCAR ecosystem. Thankfully, Preece was released from the hospital, and he is now at home with his wife and newborn baby. As for any potential injuries, that still remains under wraps, but the worst possibilities seem to have been avoided for now at least.

Now, the hard work begins for NASCAR. As they do with every crash, they will analyze it and come up with some solutions to improve driver safety in the event of crashes like this. NBR on YouTube, took some time to analyze the crash, so let’s take a deep dive into some of the major points he made to find out what needs to be fixed.

It’s worth noting that none of these solutions are definitive answers. Rather, they are just ideas for what NASCAR can look at testing, and it all comes down to whatever information they gain from testing.

The Window Net and the Roof Hatch

The two most glaring issues with this crash are the open hole on the top of the car, and the dislodging of the window net. Those are critical components that help keep the driver in the race car during the event of a serious accident.

As far as the roof hatch goes, there are some things to consider. First off, it is there as a safety precaution for drivers to exit the car in certain extreme situations. If there is ever an instance where a driver cannot escape through the window net, the roof hatch offers that extra place to go when needed.

So, getting rid of it does not seem like an option. What NASCAR can do is increase the integrity of the roof hatch. They need to make whatever attaches the hatch to the car stronger while also making sure the driver can easily exit the car via the roof hatch if necessary.

As far as the window net goes, the same principle needs to be applied. It has to be stronger to sustain itself in incidents like this, but not too strong to where the driver cannot dislodge it when they need to get out of the race car.

It is a tough balance that NASCAR needs to strike because going too far in one direction or another poses a safety risk to the driver. The Ryan Preece crash just happened to show that there are places to improve in these areas.

The Flip

Now, let’s take a look at a tougher problem to consider. As NBR notes in the video, the underbody of the Next-Gen car is flat. As a result, if air hits that part of the car just right, it’s going to flip with no real way of stopping it. Could something be done to fix this?

Some may say to just get rid of the underbody with the rear diffuser as is. This is something that NASCAR has tried with their most recent Next-Gen short track test. However, how far does that go in solving the issue?

Maybe NASCAR could look at adding extra flaps. NASCAR already added an extra flap on the back of the rear diffuser with the introduction of the Next-Gen car, and it works well when cars are turned around completely backward.

Is there a place for a side-skirt flap where the jackstand is, or underneath the car around where the wheels are? It’s tough when you get to the underbody just because of how low these cars are to the ground. There are all tough questions and tough things that NASCAR has to consider.

The Grass

One thing that some called for immediately after the crash was for NASCAR to get rid of grass around race tracks. Regardless of how grass did or did not impact how that crash happened, what does getting rid of grass all around a race track mean? It means that you have to replace the grass with either pavement, which is likely more pavement than is used on the actual race track, or an alternative like artificial turf.

That is both a lot of money and a lot of manpower. It is not something that can be done at every race track in just one off-season. NBR also pointed out that, in the instance of the Preece incident, he was going through the bus stop chicane of the road course. At Daytona, the grass is there for the IMSA circuit, so, Daytona and NASCAR have to keep that in mind when deciding what to put around race track.

The bottom line is that this solution is not as easy as it seems. Artificial turf is not a surefire solution either as Chris Buescher dug into that type of turf, causing a flip at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2022.

The point here is that getting rid of grass is not as easy as it seems. There are detractors to using both, and, even if paving asphalt on the infield is an option, it’s going to take time and money to make it happen. Even SAFER barriers took a while to catch on at every race track after they were invented, and it took until the 2010s for SAFER to be anywhere other than the corners at many tracks.

The solution to this crash is a very complicated one. There are obvious problems that must be fixed and more subtle problems that are harder to fix. NASCAR will likely come up with some sort of a solution following this crash, but, they will take their time with it as they should.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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