Local News

NASCAR'S Research And Development Facility

Posted February 13, 2003 10:44 a.m. EST

— NASCAR's Research and Development Center, a 61,000-square-foot facility that opened in December of 2002, focuses on areas of safety, competition and cost containment.

It was opened as part of NASCAR's unprecedented effort to make its sport as safe as possible following the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Facility director Gary Nelson said the facility devotes 65 percent of its resources on issues of driver safety.

"Everyone at NASCAR is extremely proud of this research and development facility," NASCAR President Mike Helton said when the center opened. "We are committed to new safety initiatives, close competition and working with our teams to ensure we move forward in a cost-efficient manner. The new center allows us an endless amount of opportunities to make NASCAR even better for many years to come."

What follows below are some of the 2002 safety initiatives undertaken by NASCAR and studied at the facility.


    Soft walls were installed in sections of the superspeedways in Indianapolis and Talladega. Development continues.


    Seats made of carbon fiber, considered stronger than the seats that have been primarily used, are being designed to make the cockpits of cars safer.


    Data recorders were installed in all Winston Cup cars last season, helping NASCAR officials collect what they call "incident data." The data offers an in-depth history of what happens to drivers and cars during impacts and provides clues for how to provide further safety enhancements.


    Computers can simulate on-track incidents and their effects on cars and drivers.


    Research and Development personnel are examing the use of different crushable materials and how much they cushion the driver during and after an impact.


    The amount of fresh air flowing through the cars and to the drivers is being examined, as well as how that flow can be affected.


    A new design was tested last summer. Development of the product, including the examination and study of an overhead driver exit, continues.


    The NASCAR-sponsored seminars give drivers updates on safety-related equipment from industry experts.

  • According to Nelson, the Research and Development Center was completed at the perfect time for NASCAR to step up its safety agenda.

    "At the same time we were building the center," Nelson said when it opened, " we were still working and producing suggestions and solutions on a variety of initiative fronts. Now, it's all at our fingertips."