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  • Catch Fence

    My desktop image is a photo of the IMS front stretch from I believe it to be race morning 1957. The track is all bricks and the new glass and steel tower is in place replacing the pagoda design. It appears that there is no catch fence along the outside wall of the main straightaway. What year was the catch fence errected along the main straight and what year did the fence go around the entire track?
    Rick
    God speed!

  • #2
    i have the same desktop image
    "Paff has been closer to the mark than anyone will give him credit for."

    Richard Kimble 11/18/2010

    "Paff is far more right than any of you will EVER give him credit for.

    As non politically correct and un IndyCar friendly as it is, it's the truth. "

    SeeuInMay 12/29/2010

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    • #3
      It was there, but it was so thin it was barely visible. It was very thin wire and even the posts were tiny.

      I'm pretty sure there's been some sort of fence going all the way back to the beginning, but it wasn't significant until the late 60's. There wasn't one all the way around until at least the 60's too.
      Doctorindy.com

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      • #4
        I found a photo from Artemis of Jimmy Bryan in 1954 racing down the front stretch and I can't see, for the life of me, a catch fence along the outside wall.
        Rick
        God speed!

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        • #5
          The 1953 Clymer yearbook has several photos of cars crossing the finish line.

          Just past the finish line the fencing is clearly in place, but on the run up to the finish line the crowd are set back some distance from the track and there does not appear to be fencing on this section.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Chris Paff
            i have the same desktop image
            could one of you guys post that pic?

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            • #7
              I have no way of knowing, but I find it hard to believe that a track would not have a debris fence (catch fence is something else) in front of spectators after LeMans '55.
              "When people say there's nothing wrong with the product, that all it needs is better marketing and promotion, that's a pretty good clue they don't know they have a product nobody wants," Tommy Kendall, 6/19/04

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              • #8
                I did some research, and I've come up with some answers...

                The "old" frontstrech configuration lasted through the 1956 race. The start/finish line was actually in a different location than it is today. It is at the head of the Paddock grandstand, in the spot between Paddock and "C" stand. From the starter's stand down (south towards T1), there is a fence. From the starter's stand up (north towards T4), there is no fence.

                However, it's not total insanity. The south portion of the frontstrech featured chair/grass seating along the retaining wall (seating that remained until '73). In addition, the pits were much shorter, and began at the S/F line. The "C" stand and north was set back significantly further back from the track than the rest, and there were actually 2 concrete walls. One on the track, one at the front of the stands. There wasn't any protection above it, because people commonly stood on the inner wall for a better view. Modern day's "C" stand has the same grass strip gap in front of it.

                When the pit were redone for the 1957 race, not much else changed yet. The fence still started at the "C" stand gap, but the S/F/ line was moved to in front of the new tower. The starter's stand was gone, and instead that's when the flagman moved to the inside wall.

                After the '58 race, when Jerry Unser flew over the wall in turn 3, it seems that was the impetus to construct a fence along the whole mainstrech, because in 1959, it streched the whole way now. However, it was only in spectator grandstand areas. Parts of turns and backstrech still were bare.

                For the 1967 race, a new higher, stronger fence was built. Probably because of the 1966 race, where the opening lap wreck sent wheels into the stands. Nobody was hurt, but a higher fence was definetly needed. It appears that 1967 was also the year it was built all the way around.

                After the tragic 1973 race, they removed all of the "close" seating on the mainstrech, and took out several rows of the Paddock grandstand too. They built a new uniform height wall, and more dense catchfencing. It was that fence which was painted green, which gave a great, nostalgic look (in my opinion at least!)

                The entire outside wall and fence were rebuilt for the 1993 race.

                A fence along the inside was completed most of the way from T1 through the backstrech in time for the 1994 race. It was primarily for the Brickyard 400.

                The backstrech inside wall and fence were replaced for the 1996 race. In the 1995 race, Scott Pruett ripped up the old one pretty rough, and then Jeff Burton ripped it up some more in the '95 BY400, so it needed work.

                After the tragic 1999 Charlotte race, IMS responded by putting up some fence along the inside pit area before the '99 race, and it reached south to near the tower.

                Around 2000-2001, the inside fence was completed along the pits road all the way down. An inside fence also now went all the way from T3 and T4, down to the pits. So a fence now goes all the way around inside and out.

                Portions of the fence in the turns were hightened in 2002 when they installed the safer barriers.
                Last edited by Doctorindy; 11-23-2005, 08:21 PM.
                Doctorindy.com

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                • #9
                  doctorindy,
                  Thanks for the concise info on the history of the catch fence at Indy. I studied the photos from '57 and before, and they were taken north of the start finish line, and I could not find a hint of a fence. When I look back on the history of the 500, IMS, and racing in general, it amazes me how vulnerable the drivers, crews, and fans often were. I suppose someday in the future, someone will look back on the current era and say the same thing.
                  Rick
                  God speed!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Rick Jones
                    When I look back on the history of the 500, IMS, and racing in general, it amazes me how vulnerable the drivers, crews, and fans often were.
                    All very true. But it's also amazing how well things generally went in spite of the vulnerability. And you have to put things in perspective. In past years America was a country where everyone assumed responsibility for their own well being and preservation. This included our legal system which still put a large measure of blame for anything bad that happened on the individual who had the ultimate responsiblity for looking out for themselves. Whether you were a race driver, a fan sitting in an unprotected area, or a crew member working in the pits the general assumption was that, as an adult, you were aware of the risks involved and had made your own decision to be there. Today things have been turned upside down and old ladies who spill hot coffee in their laps receive cash settlements worth a hundred times their lifetime earning potential. Also, in the past everyone involved (drivers, mechanics, fans, etc.) KNEW that auto racing was inherently dangerous and were all there of their own free will and assumed the risks involved. Today Americans seem to want everything (right now) with no risks whatsovever and if something does go wrong we are more than ready to blame everyone but ourselves personally. We want wars with no casualties, investments that never go down, and racing that has no consequences. Of the two perspectives I personally believe that the earlier view was more true. In the long run we will all be worse off believing, as we seem to, that life can be lived with without anything bad ever happening.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by indyrjc
                      Of the two perspectives I personally believe that the earlier view was more true. In the long run we will all be worse off believing, as we seem to, that life can be lived with without anything bad ever happening.
                      I disagree with that, but I'll speak from my own perspective and not pretend to speak for anyone else. There are MANY things that we humans do that are inherently dangerous to some degree. The fact that people slip and fall in their bath tubs doesn't deter us from maintaining personal hygiene. The fact that 40-50,000 people die each year in auto accidents doesn't stop us from driving. We all have to make personal decisions to accept the risks involved. However, I think we all deserve not to have stupid, dumb, preventable **** happen. For example, the gas tank and filler neck design of the Pinto should NEVER have happened. It's not like we didn't know better. Gary B's crash at Syracuse where he did serious damage to his arm should NEVER have happened. There are public areas just off the track where he landed. We were very lucky that no one else was hurt, but the outcome might have been different if better catch fencing was in place. In 1973, F-1 aspirant Gerry Birrel was fatally injured because a section of guard rail was not properly secured and his car went underneath it. Unforseen things will always happen, but that doesn't excuse us from preventing that which we know about. If that's not true, then we should go back to racing in cloth helmets, goggles and sport shirts.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by flatlander_48
                        For example, the gas tank and filler neck design of the Pinto should NEVER have happened. It's not like we didn't know better. Gary B's crash at Syracuse where he did serious damage to his arm should NEVER have happened.
                        As I remember the main factor in the now infamous Pinto lawsuit against Ford Motor Company was the fact that the girls in question were driving around with no cap on the tank filler having lost it several days earlier. When the car was hit the gasoline squirted out and ignited like toothpaste coming out of the tube when it was squeezed. The Pinto may not have had the greatest design but anyone can tell by looking at one that it is a much less safe design just due to its size and generally lighter construction. So maybe no one should have ever bought one. I just don't know. But as you say we have learned from some of the bad things that have happened. And in the case of Gary Bettenhausen the nerve damage that he suffered was due to the fact that shoulder harnesses at that time were only 2 inches wide. During his flip the harnesses narrowed down like cables and caused the damage to his collar bones and muscles in the area. In less than one year 3 inch wide shoulder harnesses became standard and are now the norm. No one would go back the other way now. I understand your point but I still believe we have nearly crippled this country as we react to possible litigation when making decisions. A friend of mine is going to business school right now and its very interesting to hear some of the standard teaching going on today. The basic premise being taught today is that companies must put a certain percentage of their operations (and the jobs that go with them) overseas today because of the constant threat of lawsuits over just about anything. According to him this is a much more important factor than is the lower wages generally being paid in other parts of the world. You can make your operations more efficient to make up for labor differences and until the last couple of decades that's exactly what we did even though wages have always been lower elsewhere. The deciding factor has become the threat of current and future litigation over things that you couldn't even think of right now. In the U.S. courts today the basic belief is that no individual is responsible for themselves at all and if something goes wrong with a product (or at a race or other sporting event) then everyone else should pay for that individual's problem with no regard to whether that person used bad judgement on their own. Of course we should learn from the past and always try to make things safer in the future. But we should also, as individuals, assume a greater role in being responsible for our own well being and quit be so quick to blame everyone else. This applies to all levels of auto racing as well as the rest of society.

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                        • #13
                          If risk of harm was totally removed from racing would we still find it thrilling and entertaining?
                          Fans live vicariously through those brave souls who put their lives on the line, whether it be a race car driver or a ski jump competitor. When I jumped out of a plane a decade ago, my senses were a buzz. I felt so alive challenging my fears and death. Do you think race car drivers get a similar buzz when they take a car to it's limit, skillfully guiding the machine at speeds most others could never reach?
                          I remember a Sixty Minutes episode many years ago where a southern California farmer was relating what his father once told him, "you know what socialism is....it's a society where there are no failures.....where there are no failures there are no winners either!" This statement has stuck with me. I think indyrjc has a point, we have become a society that has become hyper-sensitive toward preventing failure or loss. We inflate self-esteem telling all children that they are great just because they exist and not because of what they accomplsh. We have lawyers who get rich finding ways to spread the blame when responsibility is obvious. I don't think I have ever heard Gary Bettenhausen place blame on anyone for his injury.....but look at the aftermath of Dale Earnhart's tragic death and see what we have become.
                          Rick
                          God speed!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by indyrjc
                            As I remember the main factor in the now infamous Pinto lawsuit against Ford Motor Company was the fact that the girls in question were driving around with no cap on the tank filler having lost it several days earlier. When the car was hit the gasoline squirted out and ignited like toothpaste coming out of the tube when it was squeezed. The Pinto may not have had the greatest design but anyone can tell by looking at one that it is a much less safe design just due to its size and generally lighter construction. So maybe no one should have ever bought one. I just don't know. But as you say we have learned from some of the bad things that have happened.
                            I don't know how many lawsuits there were, but what you mentioned was just one of them. In all, over 1,000 people died in exploding Pintos. In the infamous memo, Ford had identified several ways of fixing the problem that ranged between $5 and $12 per car. Unfortunately the reccomendations fell on deaf ears. They had the power and means to fix the problem, but they didn't. The thing is, most people do not have the specific background or experiences that would have led them to question the design of the vehicle. You said "anyone can tell by looking...", but I don't think that is the case. We assume that people who design and build our "appliances" have done their homework.

                            Originally posted by indyrjc
                            And in the case of Gary Bettenhausen the nerve damage that he suffered was due to the fact that shoulder harnesses at that time were only 2 inches wide. During his flip the harnesses narrowed down like cables and caused the damage to his collar bones and muscles in the area. In less than one year 3 inch wide shoulder harnesses became standard and are now the norm. No one would go back the other way now.
                            Actually he credits the nerve damage to the severe break to his upper arm. That's what led him to develop the arm restraints that keep a driver's arms inside the roll cage. However, the point was that his car should not have gone outside the race track. There are concession stands just outside the track. Fortunately the one that he landed on was not open at the time. Yes, it is one thing to assume that race track patrons assume the risks, and I agree with that. However, in the case of the Fair Grounds, there can be people on the grounds who are not there to be part of the racing event. They have not agreed to accept this extra risk.

                            Originally posted by indyrjc
                            I understand your point but I still believe we have nearly crippled this country as we react to possible litigation when making decisions. A friend of mine is going to business school right now and its very interesting to hear some of the standard teaching going on today. The basic premise being taught today is that companies must put a certain percentage of their operations (and the jobs that go with them) overseas today because of the constant threat of lawsuits over just about anything.
                            That doesn't make sense because when you sell something in the US, regardless of where it came from, you are liable for that product. Where liability settlements show up is in higher retail prices for the products or services (assuming the companies are not forced out of business). Please explain further...

                            Originally posted by indyrjc
                            In the U.S. courts today the basic belief is that no individual is responsible for themselves at all and if something goes wrong with a product (or at a race or other sporting event) then everyone else should pay for that individual's problem with no regard to whether that person used bad judgement on their own. Of course we should learn from the past and always try to make things safer in the future. But we should also, as individuals, assume a greater role in being responsible for our own well being and quit be so quick to blame everyone else. This applies to all levels of auto racing as well as the rest of society.
                            I hear what you are saying, but consider this. We always seem to work in reactionary mode regarding safety in motorsports. After Greg Moore's accident, they paved over the grass inside the backstretch at California. After the IRL race at Charlotte they, and other tracks also, raised the fencing and made it arc over the track more. After Bobby Allison's crash at Talledega NASCAR really began to think about slowing the cars down and evaluating the aerodynamics. I can cite many other examples, but the fact remains that we almost always do something after these catastrophes to increase the safety of the facility. I've never heard anyone come back an say "We don't know how to make it any safer.". The fact that we always seem to respond after a tragedy suggests that we might have prevented or lessened the severity of the situation if we had put out the effort.

                            Will motorsports ever be entirely safe? No, I don't think that will ever happen. Raw speed and the fact that you can hit a stationary object (a wall) or a stopped car preclude that. One of my current hot buttons is how vulnerable pit crews are. Yes, we have speed limits but what would happen if during braking before the pit road entrance there is a failure or someone just loses control? I'm primarily speaking of ovals here in the US. F-1 has the right idea in that there is usually a protected chicane that drivers have to negeotiate before they enter the pits. If you are not under control, you probably won't make it through the chicane. Seems pretty simple to me...

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                            • #15
                              Preachin' to the choir with me indyrjc.

                              There's a difference between honest efforts toward safety and blaming someone else when things go wrong.

                              I've seen lawsuits by obese people toward their doctor after they have a heart attack saying the doctor didn't run enough tests, even though the doctor told them repeatedly they needed to lose weight and were high risk. If you want to spend money on tests to tell you you're at risk, when it's crystal clear, then just don't push for the government (funded by me) to pay for your foolishness.

                              I am very glad for drivers such as Jackie Stewart who lobbied for better safety. Stewart even refused to run a race when it was unsafe. That's better then running it, getting hurt, and then suing.
                              Got to watch out for those Libertarians - they want to take over the government and leave everyone alone!

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