February 21, 2012 (Las Vegas, Nev.) – Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and 55-time race winner Rusty Wallace says “composites and NASCAR are here to stay” and he believes the collaboration between the industry and the highly popular sport can only get stronger.
Wallace, one of the top money winners in NASCAR history, offered his unique perspective during today’s COMPOSITES 2012 General Session, sponsored by Owens Corning.
Wallace told the audience he’d “watched composites come up through NASCAR. Used to be, they wouldn’t let us use them…but now, about 30 percent of the parts and pieces are composites. Anywhere they try to get weight savings, it’s composites.”
According to Wallace, safety issues—fueled by the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500—caused NASCAR to embrace composites.
Wallace described the aluminum seat in Earnhardt’s car that fatal day as “prehistoric” and said it cut through Earnhardt’s safety belt. Since then, NASCAR has turned to seats made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. “Everything around the driver is now made of composites,” Wallace stated.
Wallace also pointed to the eight-inch-thick composites panels that run along both sides of today’s NASCAR vehicles. “Those crushable zones down the sides of the cars have saved lives,” he declared.
On a personal note, Wallace recalled wearing a five-pound helmet during his racing career. “After 350 laps, it got really heavy,” he said. “It wore out my neck muscles.” Today’s helmets, made of composites, weigh only eight ounces.
Wallace went on to urge members of the composites industry to “put your arms around NASCAR” and use it to promote their products. He also said it would be “cool” if companies would “band together to tell why composites are better than steel, aluminum and other materials.” He urged his listeners to use the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) as a “focal point” and the “spread the word.”
Introducing Wallace at the podium was Arnaud Genis, group president of Owens Corning’s Composite Solutions Business (CSB). Genis said the composites industry has “changed so much” since he began his career. He also stated that global mega-trends, including population expansion, offer many opportunities for composites.
COMPOSITES 2012, being held in Las Vegas on February 21-23, is produced by ACMA.
In addition to Owens Corning, the Platinum Sponsors of COMPOSITES 2012 are CCP Composites, Composites One and Reichhold.