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TRACKS: Michigan Speedway Fence Improvements Underway after U.S. 500 Tragedy

6 August 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

BROOKLYN, MI: There is much to be accomplished in a short time. The NASCAR DeVilbiss 400 Winston Cup race is in two weeks at the Michigan Speedway. Between now and then, the catch fencing from turn three through turn one will be modified.

The modification stems from the tragedy at the U.S. 500 CART FedEx Championship series race held July 26 at the track. During the race, a car driven by Adrian Fernandez hit the turn four wall. One of the car's tires came off and flew into the turn four grandstand. Three spectators were killed and six others injured as a result of the incident.

Gene Haskett, president of the Michigan Speedway said, "Our staff will work around the clock if necessary to complete the job." He continued, "Our total focus is on completing the project. We have not looked at the cost yet"

Currently, the top of the fencing extends at an angle over the track. Four feet of fencing will be added to that angled portion. Since the fence is angled, the extension will add two and-a-half feet to the fence height.

Haskett is optimistic about the improvements. "I don't think there's any question it's going to help. It will be a deterrent." He concluded, "We don't jump to conclusions, but when you have three people fatally injured, it's clear something had to be done."

Those killed in the accident during the U.S. 500 were Kenneth Fox, 38, from Lansing, Michael T. Tautkus, 49, and Sheryl Laster, 40, from Milan.

The accident in Michigan caused others to take notice. H.A. Humpy Wheeler, the president of the Charlotte Motor Speedway said, "That accident is going to make us do what everybody else is probably doing this week, and that's looking at their wheel fences and walls and what can be done to make it better, just like in '87 when Bobby Allison went into the wheel fence at Talladega." He continued, "A change resulted from that, no so much in the fence itself, but in the cables that go into the fence.''

Additional cable is also being added at Michigan to re-enforce the fence.