NASCAR: Ryan Blaney crash completely ends a recurring debate

Ryan Blaney, Ally 400, Nashville Superspeedway, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, Ally 400, Nashville Superspeedway, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Ryan Blaney’s hard crash during Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway proved why SAFER barriers are needed everywhere.

Safety technology and advancements in NASCAR — and really all forms of motorsport — over the years have been nothing shy of amazing.

When you compare where racing is now to where it was even just a few years ago — and to a greater extent, decades ago — it is impressive how far safety has come, and no matter how much praise we heap upon those responsible, it can never be enough.

Having said that, everyone agrees that there is still work left to be done. This season, that has never been more evident than it was in Ryan Blaney’s crash during Sunday evening’s Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway.

During a restart at the four-turn, 1.33-mile (2.140-kilometer) Lebanon, Tennesse oval, the No. 12 Team Penske Ford was merely tapped in the rear by the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kyle Busch. Blaney lost control of his car and spun across the infield.

Unable to regain control, he slammed headfirst into the wall on the inside of the track, just beyond pit exit.

That wall unfortunately does not have a SAFER barrier.

The SAFER barrier has been around at IndyCar and NASCAR oval tracks since 2002, when it was debuted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway following a roughly five-year development period. SAFER is an acronym which stands for “Steel And Foam Energy Reduction”.

While referred to as a “soft wall” by some, the SAFER barrier by no means makes the wall itself soft. There is, after all, still a concrete barrier involved.

But because of the way the technology is set up, featuring structural steel tubes and bundles of closed-cell polystyrene foam, the barrier absorbs and reduces kinetic energy during the impact of a crash. As result, injuries due to wall contact have been reduced drastically over the last two decades, and there is no telling how many lives have been saved.

Following Ryan Blaney’s accident, there is no longer any excuse for any NASCAR barrier not to feature SAFER barrier technology.

Is it currently used where most wrecks happen already? Yes.


In this day and age, “most” simply doesn’t cut it, and Blaney’s crash proved it.

The simple fact is that the technology is available. It’s not like there is a supply shortage of polystyrene foam.

For that very simple reason, it needs to be used everywhere, especially given how hard a lot of these Next Gen wrecks are. This is no longer a debate.

Nobody wants to be caught out by fluke timing or location of an accident simply because a wreck was seen by somebody as “unlikely”.

Fortunately, though he required assistance to get out of his car, Blaney was able to walk away from the accident. It definitely could have been a lot worse.

But a lot of crashes “could have been a lot worse”, especially those that involve non-SAFER barriers. Blaney’s certainly isn’t the first, but it needs to be the ultimate game changer.

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Just because they weren’t worse doesn’t make that a good enough reason to keep things as they are, especially when the improvements needed are relatively obvious and quite basic to implement — and when the consequences of inaction could be dire.