Monday, October 5, 2009
Updated: October 6, 5:27 PM ET
Talladega frontstretch fence 22 feet high
By Marty Smith
As a safety precaution to protect fans and competitors, Talladega Superspeedway extended the height of its frontstretch catch fence by eight feet, president Rick Humphrey told ESPN.com Monday.
On Tuesday, Daytona International Speedway announced it is going to do the same.
The decision was made in reaction to a horrific accident on the final lap of the Aaron's 499 Sprint Cup race on April 29, which sent Carl Edwards' Ford airborne into the previous fencing and sent debris spraying into the grandstands.
The fence held up in the crash but was destroyed, creating concern about fan safety at the high-speed 2.66-mile venue.
"First of all, what was in place worked," Humphrey said. "The fence did its job. We were very fortunate that day that it worked. But we also talked that day and said we'd take information gathered from the wreck and look at it, have other folks look at it, and see if any enhancements could or needed to be made."
Humphrey and his staff hired an outside engineering firm to survey the damage. It was recommended that the fence height be extended. It stood 14 feet in April. It now stands 22 feet, and the top bows out over the track surface.
There are other enhancements to the fence, too, though Humphrey said he is not at liberty to discuss them.
"The engineering team we consulted with has that information," he said. "It is proprietary information that they've provided to us. They're okay with the height, that's something to the naked eye you'll certainly be able to see. There are other variables you can't get into."
Edwards was the race leader on the final lap in April when eventual race winner Brad Keselowski went to pass. Edwards' attempt to block Keselowski's advance was too late and he made contact with Keselowski's right front quarter panel, spinning the No. 99 Ford around backwards and airborne, up into the fence.
Eight spectators suffered minor injuries that day, including 17-year old high school senior Blake Bobbitt, who required reconstructive surgery to repair her jaw.
The frontstretch fence at Talladega will be raised before the Nov. 1 race, and the backstretch will be completed during the offseason. Daytona will have its fences raised before its first big event in January.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.