Sunday, July 11, 2010

Smooth Sailing

[You’re screaming down the front stretch at Indy and about to inhale the car in front of you when, unexpectedly, he pulls down into your line and BAM—you’re airborne. {Freeze Frame} Pop up the visor, take a deep breath, and have a look around. You’re 10 feet off the deck and staring down the throat of the Turn 1 catch fence at over 200 mph.]

So, while you’re temporarily spared a very unenviable fate and just hanging out, ask yourself this: Would I rather slam into the current cheese-grater of a fence that will summarily shred my car (and maybe me) into 1.3 million pieces and shower them like pixy dust all over my fellow competitors; or, maybe hit something a bit more forgiving? Something considerably less ferocious? Something smooth... yea, smooth, that might bang me around and ring my noggin like a cheap kabuki gong, but essentially spit me back out on track in remarkably good shape, all things considered?

Now, I don’t know whose idea a smooth, “hockey-style” catch fence was—some cursory research revealed it being bantered about on the Net at least as far back as ’04—but I think it’s something the IZOD IndyCar Series owes its competitors and fans to, at least, investigate.

No, I don’t know if it will work; no, I don’t know how much it will cost and; selfishly, no, I don’t know if I want to be staring through a clear plastic screen while sitting in the stands. But in light of recent (and not-so-distantly past) events, it seems like something worth considering.

Sure, racing will always have a danger element, but is that a super-license to dismiss safety opportunities [insert HANS Device and SAFER Barrier arguments here]?

I’m not blindly endorsing the idea, just bringing it up for discussion. I suspect you have an opinion on the subject, so please share it via the poll, above, or the comment section, below. I also imagine these guys might have a word or two to say about it: Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe, Kenny Bräck, Davey Hamilton, Tony Renna (1976–2003).

[Now, back to the action. Drop that visor... {Roll Tape}]


Editor’s note: I’m not one for sensationalism, but if you absolutely can’t help yourself from wanting to see what sort of carnage the current iteration of catch fence can cause, click
here, then scroll down.


  1. This guy right here is where it started :) I talked with Dr Sickling for about 2 months in the fall of 04.' The major issue is that there isn't the technology preset to make a polymer that is both strong and clear. Plus there would need to be an anchoring system which I theorized we could use the current post system as either an rear inlay or placed behind the clear wall system. I can see something like this being possible by 2020 though.

  2. Great to have a comment from TJ, the man who, apparently, started it all! Thanks for the insight, TJ.