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USAC busy on safety upgrades across multiple series

USAC-sanctioned races will be getting new safety equipment soon. Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- The United States Auto Club used the forum of the annual Performance Racing Industry Show to launch a series of new initiatives to improve safety and logistics for competitors.

USAC's TracSafe package is a system of lights mounted on the dash and the rear of the car linked into the timing and scoring system that will speed up the process of indicating when a caution flag is displayed for an accident or other hazard on the track.

TracSafe will be utilized in USAC's Sprint Car, Silver Crown and Midget series.

As soon as timing and scoring indicates a caution, a yellow light will immediately illuminate on every car's dash, which could be several seconds sooner than when the driver would see a caution flag displayed at the start line or a marshall's stand.

The three lights mounted to the rear of the car also function as leader lights that will help spectators follow the race.

"At a typical dirt track, the people in the tower call 'Yellow,' but there can still be a delay if the flagman doesn't hear the call, plus he has to get out the flag and turn on the light," said USAC President and CEO Kevin Miller. "That delay can be 2-4 seconds, and a Sprint Car at Eldora travels a long way in that time.

"We worked on eliminating that delay, and now when the [scoring] tower goes yellow, the car goes yellow."

Miller said that USAC was already working on a leader light system, but a fatal Midget accident in August at the Belleville (Kansas) High Banks involving popular driver Bryan Clauson drew attention to the issue of potential delays in notifying drivers of a caution.

"It became one of the safety initiatives we were developing," Miller noted. "Bryan was hit by another car, and I don't know what all of the circumstances were, but if you can save one or two seconds, it changes a driver's perspective.

"If we can buy one or two seconds, this is worth the cost, because it happens every night."

USAC will maintain ownership of the components to make the simple updates to the cars. There will be no cost to competitors.

The leader lights are a development of a design introduced in ALMS sports car racing in the early 2000s. One of USAC's biggest challenges was developing a self-powered system to keep the TracSafe electronic components functioning in push-start cars that do not feature a battery.

"We wanted to come up with a similar system, but at a much lower cost for our kind of racing," Miller said. "It essentially clips on to the car."

USAC's MedTag program aims to rapidly provide critical medical information to safety workers attending to an injured driver. A small scanning sticker on each driver's helmet will immediately link to detailed medical records.

"We're doing this for every series we sanction," said Miller.

USAC has been expanding its net outside of the oval track racing it is famous for. The Indianapolis-based group has taken over sanction of the Pirelli World Challenge road racing series, as well as Formula Drift, Global Rallycross, Robby Gordon's Stadium Super Trucks, and TORC off-road racing.

For competitor convenience, USAC is implementing a program called TracPay, in which prize money checks will be replaced by immediate deposits onto reloadable debit cards.