FORT WORTH, Texas -- Data from Michael McDowell's crash Friday at Texas Motor Speedway showed the impact was at the upper limit of what the SAFER barrier was designed to withstand, the man whose team developed the "soft walls" said Monday.
Dr. Dean Sicking, whose team at the University of Nebraska developed the steel and foam energy reducing barrier, said on Sirius NASCAR Radio that data shared with him by NASCAR showed a 70 mph change of velocity at the moment of impact.
That change of velocity number is important in studying high-impact crashes. If measures the difference between the speed a car is traveling the moment -- in milliseconds -- immediately before and the moment immediately after an impact.
In McDowell's case, that means his car lost 70 mph in the instant that it hit the wall.
The data Sicking referred to came from the data recorder that was in McDowell's car during the crash. All Sprint Cup cars carry the so-called "black boxes" that produce such data.
Data recorders were not used in Cup cars when Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. But a subsequent investigation into the crash, in which Sicking and his team participated, used photogrammetric analysis, GPS data, computer simulations and full-scale crash tests to estimate that Earnhardt's car endured a change of velocity of 42 to 44 mph when it hit the Turn 4 wall.
Sicking said that the SAFER barriers were designed so they could withstand impacts creating velocity changes of up to 70 mph.
"We felt like we had a little bit more for safety built in there, but that's at the upper range we worked toward," Sicking said.