Gordon's crash in spring prompts Vegas to put in SAFER barrier

A frightening crash by Jeff Gordon last spring has prompted Las Vegas Motor Speedway to install a new SAFER barrier along the inside wall on the back straightaway of the 1.5-mile track.

During the race in March 2008, four-time Cup champion Gordon made heavy contact with the wall in the area that is now protected by the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier. The new SAFER barrier covers 1,700 feet of the inside backstretch wall, with the energy-absorbing units now covering 7,800 feet of the retaining walls around the track.

Gordon's crash occurred when he made contact with Matt Kenseth's car, sending both spinning. Gordon's car hit the inside wall so hard it ripped the transmission from under the hood. Team owner Rick Hendrick said at the time that NASCAR should not return to the track until the retaining wall that Gordon hit was improved.

"Speedway Motorsports is committed to driver safety at all of its speedways," said track general manager Chris Powell. "Following this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup event, we consulted with NASCAR officials and our own engineers. We all agreed that installing the barrier on the backstretch was the proper course of action."

The final panels of the new barrier were put in place last week, with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan on hand to see the changes firsthand.

"This speedway has made tremendous improvements to enhance both the fan experience and driver safety over the past several years," Gaughan said.

The first event on the superspeedway with the new barrier will be a truck series race on Saturday, Sept. 20.