Indy installs soft walls

Crash pads

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Workers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were installing soft walls Monday even as IRL officials scheduled a Wednesday news conference to announce a decision regarding the new safety device.

The walls, developed with researchers at the University of Nebraska, are designed to limit the force of impact when drivers crash.

If speedway president Tony George approves, which appears likely, the new walls are expected to be in place May 5 when practice opens for the Indianapolis 500. Qualifying begins May 11 at the 2 1/2-mile oval for the May 26 race.

Speedway spokesman Fred Nation did not return a phone message left at his office Monday, and photographers were instructed not to take photos of the soft walls until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, workers were busy hanging the padded gray material over the outside walls in turns three and four, then covering them with white so that they blended in with the concrete walls surrounding the track.

It wouldn't be the first time soft walls were used at the speedway.

Arie Luyendyk crashed into another version of the soft wall during an IROC race in August 1998, and his accident prompted concerns about the wall's design.

After Luyendyk crashed, the wall disintegrated and debris was scattered across the race track. Luyendyk caromed back onto the track -- and into traffic -- and the device then was taken down.

Few details of the actual composition of the walls have been released, although the cost has been estimated to be between $160 and $175 per linear foot installed. IRL vice president Brian Barnhart has estimated about 4,500 feet would be required to fully pad all four corners.

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