By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR is making structural changes to cars competing in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series in the name of safety. The changes are optional through the remainder of the 2016 season, will be mandatory at the restrictor plate races at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 2017, and likely mandatory at all tracks, beginning in 2018.
Teams competing in at least one of the two series received technical bulletins on Thursday, outlining the changes. Also, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn laid out the details of the changes in a teleconference Thursday.
“We’ve done quite a bit of analysis, crash testing, and we’ve come to the point now that we believe that the package is mature, and we want to introduce it,” Stefanyshyn said.
Changes include an added piece of material behind the driver, extending from the anti-intrusion plating on the door bars to the rear sub frame. Other changes are modifications to parts already installed in the race cars.
“Basically, we are making the structure that encapsulates the driver more robust and susceptible to manage energy in a better way,” Stefanyshyn said.
The focus of the changes is to improve protection to drivers’ feet and legs. The call for changes came, at least in part, after Kyle Busch wrecked in the 2015 Xfinity Series season-opener at Daytona, suffering fractures in his right leg and left foot.
“We’re replacing existing materials with materials in instances which are thicker or being formed in a way with less welds,” Stefanyshyn said. “Also, the way we attach part of it is we are creating, for a lack of a better term, a zipper so we provide a lot more weld surface.”
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