Safety News 2001

  • Helmets and Firesuits UPDATE 2: NASCAR informed teams last week that fireproof suits and helmets will be mandatory for anyone who goes over the wall on pit stops next season.(Sporting News). Wonder if it means NASCAR Officials too?(12-10-2001)
    UPDATE: hearing that the helmet/firesuit requirement does includes officials, they are not sure of what type of helmet but a helmet will be required of anyone going over the wall including officials(12-10-2001)
    UPDATE 2: NASCAR will require any crew member going over the wall during race conditions to wear protective helmets and fire-resistant clothing beginning with the 2002 season. In a technical bulletin that began going out to teams late last week, NASCAR also amended its official Winston Cup rulebook to include requirements for the first time that drivers wear helmets and fire suits during practice, qualifying and competition. NASCAR's rulebook amendments, which will be included in the 2002 rulebooks for its Grand National and Truck series as well as Winston Cup, still put the onus for safety on the competitors. "Each Competitor is solely responsible for the effectiveness of personal safety equipment used during an Event," the bulletin said, adding, "NASCAR IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ANY PERSONAL SAFETY EQUIPMENT."(That's Racin')(12-11-2001)

  • NASCAR Official and Helmets: It appears NASCAR officials assigned to pit road may be required to wear helmets next year. (Winston Cup Scene - need sub to read)(11-29-2001)

  • New Seat Ready: After more than a year of development, a composite seat that provides a cocoon for the driver is ready for use in NASCAR's 2002 season. The seat, created by PPI Motorsports and Reynard Motorsports of England, was submitted to NASCAR this fall. It has yet to be approved, but is expected to receive the go-ahead in time for use during Speedweeks in February. Once approved the seat will be manufactured by Reynard and distributed, certified and serviced by C&R Racing in Indianapolis. The seat's cost hasn't been determined.(Winston Cup Scene - need sub to read)(11-29-2001)

  • USA Today: Safety experts say government could intervene by the AP(11-20-2001)

  • Police Investigate Pitroad Accident: Following last Sunday's pit road accident at Homestead, Miami-Dade Police Department detectives began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, which sent two members of Ricky Rudd's [#28] team to hospitals. The investigation included interviewing the crews and photographing the scene and the cars involved. The haulers of two teams - those of Ward Burton and Rudd - were stopped on the highway on their return to North Carolina so photos could be taken of the race cars. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter termed the investigation routine and said Miami-Dade officers had conducted a similar inquiry following the death of NASCAR Truck series driver John Nemechek at the South Florida track in 1997. Hunter said the investigation was for all practical purposes over since Burrell is apparently recovering.(That's Racin')(11-17-2001)

  • Pit Crews and Helmets? UPDATE: NASCAR president Mike Helton says all pit crew members who go over the wall might be asked to wear helmets in the future.(Sporting News)(11-12-2001)
    UPDATE: NASCAR is considering mandating helmets for pit crew members during races. “Helmets are optional now, but we’re taking a hard look at either mandating them or strongly recommending them,” said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications. Some teams are planning to move forward in that direction regardless of NASCAR’s decision, including Michael Waltrip’s #15 NAPA Chevy crew. Waltrip's team has already budgeted crewmember helmets for 2002, according to a team spokeswoman. One team, Cal Wells’ #32 Tide Ford group, has long been required to wear helmets when going over the wall. Wells brought the idea of helmets for crew members with him from CART, where such devices are mandated.(

  • Head and Neck Devices at the Lower Level UPDATE: NASCAR, having made head and neck restraint devices man-datory for its top three touring series — Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck — is considering extending the rule to its Weekly Racing Series. Some 10,000 drivers participate in the series at more than 100 tracks around the country. NASCAR will announce its decision on local requirements before the start of the spring season, although it could mean added expense for drivers.(Tennessean)(11-8-2001)
    UPDATE: been informed that the cost of the HANS device mentioned in the Tennessean is incorrect. The device does not cost $1,500-$1,800 but $1,275(11-9-2001)

  • New Fuel Cell: NASCAR and Safety Technologies are preparing a Kevlar fuel cell bladder that could limit fuel leaks and resulting fires, especially the near-explosions that rear impacts can cause. The 1/16th-inch flexible Kevlar shroud encloses the current fuel cell, protecting it from puncture. Contained within the Kevlar bladder is a special material that absorbs gasoline. The fuel cell bladder is reportedly the first of its kind in motorsports and, according to Van Norman, could help eliminate fire in "99 percent of the rear-end collisions that we've been seeing right now." So far Van Norman and BSR Products President Butch Stevens have worked closely with NASCAR Winston Cup Director Gary Nelson in an effort to get the device approved for competition. The cell has already been run in the rear clip of Jason Jarrett's #67 ARCA car in that series' October Talladega race and has been subjected to destructive testing with water in the fuel cell.(Winston Cup Scene - need sub to read)(11-8-2001)

  • Interesting Tidbit: There is this ironic footnote to the safety debate: Being shown in Winston Cup trailers yesterday morning was a video clip of a 20-year-old film short that was pretty shocking - crewman George White, at the wheel of a late model stock car, Oct. 30, 1980 on a Florida short track, deliberately running into a concrete barrier at 59 mph in a dramatic test of a head-and-neck restraint White himself had devised. White survived, with a broken leg but no other serious injuries. The restraint device was quite similar to the current Autoliv-Hutchens device, with straps attached to the helmet and to a special body harness that in part resembles the current six-point seat belt. White says that he attempted to market his device to the racing world, but with no success. White wrote to General Motors on April 21, 1981, about the safety device but got the cold shoulder. He also wrote to USAC and NASCAR that same year and got the cold shoulder from both.(Winston Salem Journal)(10-22-2001)

  • Doctor, Doctor: NASCAR is in the process of hiring "three or four doctors," all specialists in trauma and emergency medicine, to care for drivers at Winston Cup races, NASCAR President Jim Hunter said Friday. In what Hunter called "a major philosophical change," NASCAR also will hire at least four engineers to work at its new research-and-development center near Conover, N.C. "Safety is going to be the primary focus of the R&D center," he said. NASCAR stopped short of creating a full-fledged, highly specialized, traveling medical and emergency team, such as those employed by all other major motor racing series in the world. Pressed on that issue, Hunter said, "You got your HANS," meaning NASCAR's mandate Wednesday of head-and-neck restraints for drivers.(Orlando Sentinel)(10-20-2001)

  • ESPN: Safety should start with construction by Jack Arute(10-14-2001)

  • Jarrett Wants Mandate: Dale Jarrett said Tuesday that he thinks it's time for NASCAR to make head-and-neck restraints mandatory. "We've looked at these things, we've learned what they do and we know they can save lives," Jarrett said. "It's time to stop playing around and get them on everybody." Tony Stewart is the only driver among full-time Winston Cup competitors who is not now using either the HANS or Hutchens device.(That's Racin')(10-10-2001)

  • Helton sets timetable UPDATE: NASCAR president Mike Helton, criticized this week for moving too slowly on safety issues, said it likely will be more than a year before there are major modifications to race cars. "I would have rather had something two years ago, but I don't think we'll have significant changes in the cars by 2002," he said. Helton said NASCAR already was working on a better race car before Blaise Alexander Jr.'s fatal crash in an ARCA race Thursday. "If you have a series of critical angle impacts that cause basal skull fractures that kill drivers, then something needs to be done," he said. "That's what we're doing, but it's not an easy fix." He said the Big Three automakers and the major race teams are working with NASCAR on safety issues. "Everybody agrees that we can massage the front ends of the cars and make them better," Helton said. "But we need to start from scratch and manage the entire car differently than we do today and create crush areas."(Atlanta Journal Constitution)(10-7-2001)
    UPDATE: NASCAR President Mike Helton said Saturday that head-and-neck restraints could become mandated if development of those systems continues to progress. "Once we're sure that there's not some hidden element, and we haven't seen yet, it may need to be looked at one day to be mandated," Helton said specifically of the HANS device. "The development has been elevated and a huge gap closed in that process through input of the drivers. Once we're certain about it, it's a different issue." Helton said the HANS device has been made more comfortable and more adaptable for drivers of different sizes.(That's Racin')(10-8-2001)

  • Black Box Update: NASCAR expects most of the cars in Sunday's field at Charlotte to be carrying crash-recorder boxes, as part of its continuing preparation to mandate the devices on all cars next season. . . . Detroit engineers have long believed that more crash data can be gathered, much faster, in NASCAR than when recorders were instituted in Indy cars in the mid 1990s. Why? Because Cup cars run a lot more laps and crash a lot more often(Orlando Sentinel)(10-4-2001)

  • Rudd changes seat belt manu: Ricky Rudd responded to increasing concerns over safety this week by changing the brand of seat belts he installs in his #28 Texaco Ford. After a briefing from NASCAR earlier in the week and viewing the belts from Jeremy Mayfield’s car, Rudd made the decision to replace the Simpson products in his car with Wheelen (actually it is Willans) belts.(Frontstretch)(9-29-2001)

  • Modifications for Seat Belts: NASCAR announced today the manufacturer's label on seat belts must not be located under the adjusting mechanism when the driver is buckled into the seat and has tightened the seat belts and shoulder harness. If the label is under the adjusting mechanism, the label must be removed or relocated in a manner that does not affect the integrity of the belt material. The date of the manufacture must remain visible on the belts at all times. This modification goes into effect immediately for NASCAR.s Winston Cup Series, Busch Series, Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Touring Series.(NASCAR PR)(9-27-2001)

  • Mayfield Shook Up but OK UPDATE 2 seat belt torn: #12-Jeremy Mayfield wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 55 at Dover and was taken by ambulance to nearby Bay Health Medical Center for a precautionary CT scan. That came out negative and Mayfield was released after being examined. The driver apparently suffered some bruising and a chipped tooth. Mayfield walked to the ambulance under his own power before being taken from the track. He did, however, lose consciousness for a short amount of time following the impact.(That's Racin')(9-23-2001)
    UPDATE: Mayfield also does NOT have a concussion and hearing NASCAR took the seat belts from the #12 car to examine them, they were not broken but had stretched some, no word on the manufacturer(9-24-2001)
    UPDATE 2: NASCAR officials discovered a partially-torn seat belt in the #12 car driven by Jeremy Mayfield following his accident in Sunday's MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400 at Dover. Mayfield received only minor injuries in the accident. The partially-torn left lap belt was found by officials during the standard post-accident review of the car. The lap belt apparently "dumped" at some point during the accident. The act of dumping occurs when the seat belt webbing is pulled or moved significantly to one side of the metal adjustment device through which the webbing is threaded. NASCAR has outside experts reviewing the damaged belt and plans to offer recommendations to its teams prior to this coming weekend.s activities(NASCAR PR), the belt was made by Simpson Performance Products. Also, Bill Simpson was interviewed by John Kernan on ESPN's RPM 2 Night and was pretty upset about the way NASCAR is handling it and says the belt did it's job and that NASCAR should look into the cars as the problem not the seat belts(see report on ESPN(9-24-2001)
    AND more Simpson: Safety guru Bill Simpson wryly welcomed Monday's NASCAR announcement that officials had found a "partially torn" Simpson lap belt in Jeremy Mayfield's car following his crash at Dover. "They can put on all the dog-and-pony shows they want," Simpson said. "I hope they just keep going with it. It's just more food for the lawsuit." Simpson said he "absolutely positively" plans to sue NASCAR over its various announcements about Simpson belts, dating to the week after Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.(Orlando Sentiel)(9-25-2001)

  • Black Boxes at Dover UPDATE: NASCAR is conducting its first test of accident-data recorders in cars racing this weekend at Dover Downs, Winston Cup Series director Gary Nelson said Friday. #92-Jimmie Johnson and #57-Jason Keller are running them in their BGN cars and #18-Bobby Labonte and #24-Jeff Gordon will drive with them in their Winston Cup cars. Nelson said NASCAR wants to know if the self-contained boxes, which will be powered by regular flashlight-style batteries, can withstand the heat generated inside Cup cars and whether they will be durable enough to hold up to a weekend's schedule of practice, qualifying and a 400-mile race on Sunday. Nelson said NASCAR wants to have the recorders in all Winston Cup, Grand National and Truck series race vehicles by next February at Daytona.(That's Racin') AND The boxes, which are powered by batteries, have been mounted near the drivers on the inside left frame. Winston Cup Director Gary Nelson said NASCAR is testing the recorders' durability and their resistance to heat.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(9-22-2001)
    UPDATE: it's been reported that seven(7) Cup cars had black boxes, some of difference versions, didn't say which cars(9-25-2001)

  • Escape Hatch? #98 BGN driver, Elton Sawyer, said Thursday that his team would begin work next week on developing an escape hatch through the car's roof. A fiery crash last week (at Michigan, #15 Waltrip) showed that some safety items in Cup cars could cause problems. Most teams have netting or extended headrests on the right side of the seat to prevent a driver's head from stretching too far in an accident. That proved to be an obstacle for Michael Waltrip. His Cup car crashed and came to rest with the driver's side pinned against the outside wall. A fire started in the car's rear and Waltrip climbed through bars and protective devices to climb out the right-side window. The incident came a few weeks after Ricky Rudd suggested in a meeting that stock cars should have a flap in the roof similar to funny cars in drag racing that give a driver another escape avenue. "It was kind of laughed about," Sawyer said of Rudd's suggestion in the meeting for drivers, crew chiefs and car owners. "I sat there and said, 'Wow that makes sense.' We're going to take a car at the shop and come up with a (roof) piece. You've got to start somewhere."(Racing Extra)(8-24-2001)

  • Fox Sports: Six steps to safer cars - Waltrip: Car changes are the key to Earnhardt report by Darrell Waltrip(8-21-2001)

  • ESPN: NASCAR has lacked in safety by Jerry Bonkowski(8-11-2001)

  • Simpson Shuts Down: Bill Simpson, the noted safety specialist who has resigned as head of his company (though he still retains a significant share of the business), has closed down the company's mobile Winston Cup safety rig, much to the consternation of many stock car teams that have relied on the rig for at-track safety devices(Winston Salem Journal)(8-11-2001)

  • Simpson to get Award: Motorsports safety pioneer Bill Simpson will receive the Smokey Yunick Award recognizing lifetime achievement in auto racing during pre-race ceremonies for the Oct. 7 UAW-GM Quality 500 Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The award, instituted several years ago by legendary car owner and mechanic Smokey Yunick who passed away May 11 at age 77, annually recognizes an individual whose lifelong efforts have had a major impact on the motorsports industry. “There certainly is no one more deserving of this honor than Bill Simpson,” said H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “I don’t think we can ever measure how many drivers’, and even crew members’, lives have been saved or how many injuries have been prevented because of Bill’s work. “Being a former driver himself, Bill has a unique ability to understand the drivers and their safety needs,” Wheeler continued. “He has extremely high standards and his emphasis on quality is simply unmatched in the industry.” The blue ribbon panel that determines the Smokey Yunick Award recipient met on Thursday, July 26, and unanimously selected Simpson to receive the prestigious award. The selection came just five days before Simpson announced his resignation from Simpson Performance Products, the company he founded in 1959. Previous winners of the Smokey Yunick Award include Ralph Moody, Banjo Matthews, Bud Moore and Cotton Owens.(LMS PR)(8-2-2001)

  • Simpson Resigns: Bill Simpson, who dedicated his life to making motorsports safer for its participants, told Tuesday night that he has resigned from the company that bears his name in the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident in February. Simpson, who less than four years ago sold two-thirds of Simpson Performance Products -- a diverse company that makes a wide variety of safety equipment ranging from drivers’ helmets and uniforms to child safety seats -- said the decision came from an inability to separate his personal relationships from the business of safety in an inherently violent endeavor. "I can’t separate the two -- it’s tough," Simpson said. "I wrote my resignation letter two weeks ago and it was accepted, reluctantly, yesterday."(

  • Safety Lug Nuts: A lug nut is, you might think, just a lug nut. But C.D. McGarr has something he believes will change your mind, especially if you're the owner of a team that races in NASCAR. And he has come all the way across the country to prove it. McGarr, age 70, and his son Chris have been in Charlotte for nearly two weeks now trying to get somebody interested in what McGarr calls his "safety lug." A couple of years ago he was watching a Winston Cup race and saw loose lug nuts cost Dale Earnhardt a chance for a victory. McGarr wanted very much to see Earnhardt win a record eighth championship, so he went to work.(That's Racin')(7-24-2001)

  • New Seat/Cocoon? UPDATE 3: An innovative driver's compartment that could become NASCAR's most revolutionary safety device sat behind a closed garage door Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Only the most privileged in the Winston Cup division got to see it. What the participants saw of the cocoon-shaped compartment which bolts into the cockpit of a stock car, they liked. Especially the drivers. "It's real nice and it's definitely safer," said former series champion Rusty Wallace, among those testing at the Speedway in preparation for next month's Brickyard 400. "I can't wait for NASCAR to let me give it a whirl." Instead of the simple aluminum seat, which NASCAR has used for decades, the new driver-encompassing device is made of stronger but more forgiving carbon fiber. That's the same material used in the tubs that protect Indy-car drivers. The compartment on display Tuesday was designed by PPI Motorsports, a Winston Cup team owned by Cal Wells, who came to the series from Championship Auto Racing Teams. Matt McArdle, the team's technical director who designed the device, declined to discuss his creation. NASCAR has yet to approve it for use in its cars.(Indianpolis Star)(7-18-2001)
    UPDATE: Jeff Burton said he is close to being ready to discuss his data on a new driver compartment and composite seat. Burton has been working with PPI Motorsports on carbon-fiber seats and safety enhancements in the driver area. He's waiting to go over the final data with a manufacturer, then plans to release his findings. The composite seat he has worked with Cal Wells' operation to develop will be tested again in another week or two. Once finalized, Burton plans to release his findings(Richmond Times Dispatch) AND Manufacturer representatives and NASCAR officials met with drivers and crew chiefs this week to discuss safety updates at Indianapolis after one of the days of testing there. A second group of drivers is scheduled to test there next week, and a similar meeting will be held. Teams were shown the capsule seat PPI Motorsports and Jeff Burton have worked on along with Reynard and Dr. John Melvin, a Michigan-based biomedical engineer and one of the leading experts on racing injuries. A capsule seat was bolted into the skeleton frame of a car and many drivers sat in it and tested getting out of the vehicle. Drivers also were told of updated test results on the various head restraint systems and were shown crash-test video. "They had a lot more technical information than they had the first time," said Todd Bodine, referring to January meetings at Daytona during testing. "They had a lot of experts there that really made everybody understand why certain things were the way they were and why they worked that way. Before, they just kind of told us what was the best. "Everybody was really happy with what they did and why they did it and looking forward to more of them and ... making everybody safer."(Racing Extra)(7-21-2001)
    UPDATE 2: Ford officials are expressing surprise at Jeff Burton's statement that he can make a stock-car seat out of aluminum that is as safe as the Ford-developed composite driver's seat. In fact, Ford is calling on NASCAR to OK the composite seat for Winston Cup competition. NASCAR officials have been slow to embrace the new composite seat, which has been under extensive development and testing since last year's deaths of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Tony Roper(Winston Salem Journal)(8-5-2001)
    UPDATE 3 - Burton's Statement: Jeff Burton is no longer sure NASCAR drivers need a carbon-fiber composite seat. After helping design and test a model, Burton said it is possible the same safety goals can be met with an aluminum seat. The aluminum has two advantages - NASCAR teams have worked with it before, and the sanctioning body immediately would allow it to be used in the cars. The new seat is a four-part model with seat belts bolted into the seat hub instead of the frame. Burton is working to develop an equivalent aluminum model for teams to use. He and Kevin Harvick used an updated aluminum seat this weekend. "NASCAR was concerned with it from the beginning because we don't have a history with composites," Burton said. "Let's don't wait for the composite thing because the composite thing might not ever happen. . . . I'm convinced more than ever now that we can get to where we want to be with aluminum."(Richmond Times Dispatch)(8-6-2001)

  • Baltimore Sun: NASCAR's Helton: Safety in driver's seat by Sandra McKee(6-3-2001)

  • Simpson Donates: Bill Simpson, the much-maligned seat belt maker, donated $12,000 worth of firesuits to Lowe's Motor Speedway Emergency Services on Thursday. The suits, which are valued at $300 each, will be worn by the speedway's frontline firemen on pit road. Thirty will be used this weekend, with 10 more scheduled to arrive in time for track's October race(AP/ESPN)(5-25-2001)

  • CBS Sportsline: Are you listening to safety, NASCAR? CART did by Holly Cain(5-3-2001)

  • Speedway Illustrated: Seat Belts - The Rest of the Story by Dick Berggren(5-2-2001)

  • Medical Director at Speedway Motorsports Tracks UPDATE: H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, conducted a “Tire-Side Chat” with media members earlier today. mentioned was: “One of the other things that we’re looking at as a company at Speedway Motorsports is the possibility of hiring a full-time medical director for our tracks and our events which include not only NASCAR, but also Indy Car and drag racing. This medial director post we are looking at would also assist sanctioning bodies with driver records and crewman records—and we haven’t talked much about that and as these pit stops get faster and faster we’re going to continue to see orthopedic-type injuries with the pit crews and we need to be on top of that as much as possible.” You mentioned the possibility of a medical director for the SMI tracks. Can you clarify that? “I think this thing could happen fairly quickly. We’ve been studying it for some time and we still are. We want to make sure we get the right person. We would continue to have the personnel in our trauma centers and the individual track medical directors, but this person would oversee things and make sure we have everything that we need in the trauma centers at our various speedways. This person could also be involved in continued research on making the trauma centers better as well as what’s happening on the track and even to the point of working with the various people who are trying to make the cars safer.” See full story/teleconference at the LMS Site (4-11-2001)
    UPDATE - SMI Adds Medical Coordinator: Speedway Motorsports Inc. took a step forward for driver safety Wednesday when it added Dr. Jerry Petty to its staff as medical services coordinator. Petty will assist at each of the races at Speedway Motorsports tracks -- Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte (Lowe's), Las Vegas, Sears Point and Texas. NASCAR, unlike CART and Formula One, doesn't have a series physician who travels and assists at all of the races. Drivers often are attended to by physicians who know nothing about the drivers' medical histories. It's a step NASCAR must take, and perhaps Speedway Motorsports is pushing the sanctioning body in the right direction. (Sporting News)(5-10-2001)

  • Simpson Still Wants Meeting: Bob Horn, an attorney representing Bill Simpson, is trying to finalize a meeting with NASCAR's top officials, Chairman Bill France Jr. and President Mike Helton, in the days between the running of The Winston (May 19) and the Coca-Cola 600 (May 27) at Lowes Motor Speedway. As of Tuesday, he was optimistic, but had not received a commitment from NASCAR's chief counsel, Gary Crotty(CNN/SI)(5-9-2001)

  • Belt Broke in BGN Race UPDATE Simpson Reacts and : A torn left lap belt was discovered in a car that wrecked in Saturday's BGN race in Nashville, prompting NASCAR officials to advise Winston Cup and Grand National teams of that fact heading into this weekend's races at Talladega. Mike Harmon, a driver from Alabama, broke a shoulder blade in Saturday's crash. He said the belt suffered a three-quarter inch tear but did not come apart. "It did its job," Harmon said. "If it hadn't, I wouldn't be talking to you. It definitely saved my life." Two months ago today, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt was killed in a wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500. NASCAR officials announced five days later that the left lap belt in his No. 3 Chevrolet was found "separated" after that crash. Harmon said the belts in his car were manufactured by Simpson Performance Products and dated March 2000 on the label. Earnhardt's car also had belts manufactured by the company owned by Bill Simpson. Earnhardt's belts were dated November 2000. Simpson could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He said last week that he felt exonerated when Dr. Barry Myers, a biomedical expert from Duke University, wrote in a report on his review of Earnhardt's autopsy that the separated belt was not a factor in Earnhardt's death.(That's Racin')
    UPDATE: Bill Simpson reacted with anger and frustration Wednesday to reports of a problem with a seat belt manufactured by his company in the BGN race on Saturday at Nashville Speedway. "NASCAR has exaggerated what happened," Simpson said of the left lap belt in a Pontiac driven by Mike Harmon. Simpson said members of Harmon's crew told him the driver's belt had a quarter-inch nick on the underside and some fraying of the fabric on the edges, not a three-quarter inch tear as Harmon told The Observer on Tuesday. "Now, whenever there is a crash, my people are going to have to be there to inspect the belts," Simpson said. "I sent out a memo this morning instructing our representatives at the track to go immediately to a car after a crash and view the belts. We haven't done that, but it looks like we're going to have to."(That's Racin')(4-18-2001)
    UPDATE 2: see a story at the Tennessean: Torn seat belt in Nashville is raising more questions than answers by David Climer(4-19-2001)

  • Seat Belt Cut? on Friday's RPM 2Night(ESPN2) and the ESPN Site, it is being reported that - Bill Simpson claims a fan has come forward with video showing Earnhardt being cut from his seat belt. Simpson, founder and chairman of Simpson Performance Products, which made the seat belt Earnhardt was wearing during his deadly crash at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, told ESPN radio's Jack Arute that a fan sent him the video of the crash. According to Simpson, he believes the video shows that an EMT cut the seat belt. "Since this whole thing has surfaced and since NASCAR did their press conference, there's a spectator that has come foward with videotape and it clearly shows an EMT getting into the car with a knife – and that's what it looked like to me – like it had been cut," said Simpson. "I have a copy of it now and it's out being enhanced at the moment." After Dale Earnhardt died at Daytona, NASCAR reported that a broken seat belt was discovered in Earnhardt's car. But, earlier this week, an independent doctor who viewed autopsy photos made the claim that a broken seat belt did not cause Earnhardt's death. More at the ESPN site(4-14-2001)

  • More Seat Belt News: The physician who said a faulty seat belt might have been responsible for Dale Earnhardt's death at the Daytona 500 admits that he was quick in blaming the restraint system. "I was trying to answer the questions the media and the public had to the best of my ability and I think I speculated more than I should have," Dr. Steve Bohannon told The News-Journal of Daytona Beach on Wednesday. "Sometimes you should just say it's too early to speculate." Bohannon, the director of emergency medical services at Daytona International Speedway, withdrew his assumption after a court-appointed medical expert said restraint failure didn't play a role in Earnhardt's death Feb. 18.(That's Racin'/AP)(4-12-2001)

  • Medical Director at Speedway Motorsports Tracks: H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, conducted a “Tire-Side Chat” with media members earlier today. mentioned was: “One of the other things that we’re looking at as a company at Speedway Motorsports is the possibility of hiring a full-time medical director for our tracks and our events which include not only NASCAR, but also Indy Car and drag racing. This medial director post we are looking at would also assist sanctioning bodies with driver records and crewman records—and we haven’t talked much about that and as these pit stops get faster and faster we’re going to continue to see orthopedic-type injuries with the pit crews and we need to be on top of that as much as possible.” You mentioned the possibility of a medical director for the SMI tracks. Can you clarify that? “I think this thing could happen fairly quickly. We’ve been studying it for some time and we still are. We want to make sure we get the right person. We would continue to have the personnel in our trauma centers and the individual track medical directors, but this person would oversee things and make sure we have everything that we need in the trauma centers at our various speedways. This person could also be involved in continued research on making the trauma centers better as well as what’s happening on the track and even to the point of working with the various people who are trying to make the cars safer.” See full story/teleconference at the LMS Site(4-11-2001)

  • Seat Belt News UPDATE 2: No one was more astonished than Bill Simpson when NASCAR officials suggested at a news conference in February that a faulty seat belt made by his company might have been responsible for the death of racing icon Dale Earnhardt. Horrified, the longtime maker of racing safety equipment polled his factory workers and suppliers about the nylon belts and quality control. He sent six sets of lap belts, made from the same batch as those in Earnhardt's car, to an independent testing laboratory. The verdict: They should not have sheared when Earnhardt's car crashed on the last lap of February's Daytona 500. Seven weeks after the accident, however, Simpson knows little more about the belt in Earnhardt's mangled Chevrolet than what he learned during that news conference. See full story at the Orlando Sentinel: NASCAR's lips sealed on seat-belt analysis, some great images and explanations at the site(4-9-2001)
    UPDATE: Seat-belt failure did not cause the head injuries that killed NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt during February's Daytona 500, a court-appointed medical expert who studied the racer's autopsy photos reported Monday. Dr. Barry Myers, a Duke University expert in crash injuries, said Earnhardt died when his head whipped violently forward in the moments after his #3 Chevy struck a concrete wall at 150 mph. Rejecting NASCAR's theory of the crash, Myers said that, even assuming what he termed "a worst-case scenario," Earnhardt's head probably would have suffered the same damage even if his lap belt had not torn on impact. See full story at the Orlando Sentinel: Expert: Seat belt no factor in Earnhardt death
    UPDATE 2 - NASCAR Statement: "We have said before and re-iterated Monday we're conducting our own detailed review with a team of experts ranging from occupant safety-restraint analysis, and crash analysis to medical and biomechanical specialists," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "This latest report will not change that. "Contrary to several reports in the media, this report is not an opposing theory to anything NASCAR has presented. Since the Daytona 500, NASCAR has made clear that we will not suggest or speculate on the circumstances surrounding Dale Earnhardt's accident until our study is complete. No one from NASCAR has ever suggested what may have happened in this accident other than to say in our preliminary investigation we found issues of concern involving the occupant restraint system. "As referenced in the report compiled by Dr. Barry Myers, better understanding can be achieved through biomechanical, sled and crash testing, which is consistent with the process we announced Monday. "We respect the varied theories from the medical field and welcome their input as to what likely could have occurred and we remain committed to a thorough, comprehensive review."(NASCAR PR) and That's Racin' has a bunch of columns up about this
    AND Bill Simpson, president of Simpson Race Products, says he plans to consult with his legal team before commenting on the report on Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash at Daytona, released today by the Orlando Sentinel(SpeedVision)(4-10-2001)

  • Seat Safety News: The cocoon-like racing seat being developed by PPI Racing went through a series of crash tests last week, and team officials said they saw "extremely positive results." Team officials plan to share their results with NASCAR officials soon. Jeff Burton and Dr. John Melvin, a Michigan-based biomedical engineer, also are involved with the project. The next step is to have a driver run test laps while using the seat to check its practical applications. Any changes needed there and based on the original crash testing will be made for a second prototype seat, which will undergo more testing(Roanoke Times)(4-9-2001)

  • Another Driver Death: The latest NASCAR driver to die of a basilar skull fracture was eulogized here with about 60 people present. He was no Dale Earnhardt. Just an obscure rookie driver who died the same way as the NASCAR legend. Michael Roberts was a 50-year-old single parent who left behind a heartbroken daughter, Taylor -- two years younger than Earnhardt's 12-year-old daughter, Taylor. Roberts, who was memorialized Friday, died March 24 at I-44 Speedway near Lebanon, Mo. He was driving 80 mph on the 3/8-mile track -- 100 mph slower than Earnhardt was when he hit a concrete wall on the last lap of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18. Roberts was the fifth NASCAR driver in 11 months to die of injuries caused by violent head movement and the fourth to die of basilar skull fracture.(see full story at the Orlando Sentinel)(4-8-2001)

  • New Seat: #32 and #96 team owner Cal Wells just received a full-blown prototype of his proposed new Winston Cup seat, which he plans to crash test soon(Winston Salem Journal)(3-31-2001)

  • New Belts for Labonte UPDATEs: #18-Bobby Labonte will use a different seat belt system in today’s Food City 500. Labonte will use a system designed and manufactured by the European company Willans( — making him the first driver in recent memory to use a restraint device not manufactured by Bill Simpson and Simpson Racing(Kingsport Times News)(3-25-2001)
    UPDATE: also been told that Terry Labonte, Michael Waltrip and Steve Park also use Willans belts, not Simpson AND Bobby Labonte used belts from a different manufacturer Sunday. Labonte, who had been using Simpson products, had belts from Willans in his car. The company is in England and provides seat belts for some Formula One teams. Crew chief Jimmy Makar said that Terry Labonte has been using the belts for about two years and the team began to look into those belts. Makar says that teammate Tony Stewart used seat belts from that manufacturer when Stewart drove in the Indy Racing League. Makar said Stewart's car would be outfitted with those belts soon(Roanoke Times)(3-26-2001)

  • The Burton Seat: A revolutionary racing seat being developed for Winston Cup drivers has further tests scheduled. Among those involved in the seat project is Jeff Burton, PPI Racing and Dr. John Melvin, a Michigan-based biomechanical engineer and one of the world's leading authorities on racing injuries. The carbon fiber seat, which was constructed in England, is in the United States, Burton said. Crash testing has been scheduled for the seat, although Burton did not say when. Crash tests were performed on an earlier prototype in October. Burton says that the seat has been designed to incorporate the HANS device, for head and neck support.(more at the Roanoke Times)(3-24-2001)

  • Simpson Belt Passes Test? UPDATE: hearing it was reported on FSN's Totally NASCAR that Bill Simpson completed his independent test of an identical lap belt to the one Dale Earnhardt was wearing in the Daytona 500. The belt material used in the test was from the same batch as the one used by Earnhardt. The test was conducted by the SFI test facility outside San Diego, CA. A test video showed a lap belt drawn across a jig to represent the size and shape of a human lower torso. The belt was then pulled on until it broke. The test showed that the belt failed at greater than 4500 pounds on either end for a combined weight of greater than 9000 pounds. Simpson said that his seat belts will not fail unless improperly installed(3-22-2001)
    UPDATE: Tests of six lap belts from the same batch used in the car in which Dale Earnhardt was killed show the restraints were able to withstand far more pressure than might be expected in a crash during a race. One of the six belts tested did not fail at all under a maximum load of 5,800 pounds placed on it during the tests at SFI Foundation's facility in Poway, CA.. The remaining five did fail, but none at lower than 4,750 pounds. According to test reports obtained by The Observer, the six 3-inch-wide nylon belts were tested on March 8. Bill Simpson, owner of the Mooresville-based company that supplies safety equipment to most NASCAR teams, took the belts from that same batch made in November 2000 that were used in Dale Earnhardt's car at Daytona(Charlotte Observer)(3-22-2001)

  • AASE Makes Suggestions: The American Society of Safety Engineers sent an open letter to NASCAR in January, suggesting that the sanctioning body increase its safety efforts. Three drivers -- Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Tony Roper -- were killed in crashes last season. AASE president Samuel J. Gualardo asked NASCAR to "implement new safety products and initiatives such as soft walls to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future." Gualardo also recommended that NASCAR form a safety committee and offered the AASE's assistance(Sporting News). See the letter and NASCAR's response at the CNN/SI Site(3-10-2001)

  • ESPN: Risk management key to NASCAR by Ray Dunlap(3-8-2001)

  • Simpson Comments on Harness Lawsuit: 'We see the attorneys' actions ... as an opportunistic stunt to capitalize on the unfortunate death of Dale Earnhardt by sensationalizing their allegations in the news media,'' Simpson founder and chairman Bill Simpson said in a statement(Boston Globe)(3-2-2001)

  • CNN/SI: Safety first - Waltrip says HANS device not bad to work with by Stephen Thomas(3-4-2001)

  • NASCAR: No Easy Answers - Safety in NASCAR is not a yes/no question by Steve McCormick(2-27-2001)

  • Business Journal Of Charlotte: Crash prompts safety concerns, questions about costs by Erik Spanberg(2-26-2001)

  • Houston Chronicle Tragedy Renews Calls for Increase In Safety Measures by David Barron(2-26-2001)

  • Roanoke Times: More drivers turn to safety devices by Dustin Long

  • How Stuff Works: How NASCAR Safety Works(2-23-2001)

  • AutoRacing1: Safety - It's going to take more than just magic to fix by Mark Cipolloni(2-21-2001)

  • St Petersburg Times: Wells leads push for safety device by Kevin Kelly(2-21-2001)

  • USA Today NASCAR cannot ignore safety issues any longer by Jeff Zillgitt(2-21-2001)

  • AutoRacing1: Safety - It's going to take more than just magic to fix by Mark Cipolloni(2-21-2001)

  • Speed Magazine: What have we learned? NASCAR must weigh safety of fans, racers by Godwin Kelly(2-21-2001)

  • Sporting News:
    Time for NASCAR to change the rules -- for safety's sake by Dave Kindred
    NASCAR execs deflect safety debate by Andy Clendennen(2-21-2001)

  • Safety in the Pits: Cal Wells (owner of the #32 and #96) has ordered his over-the-wall pit crew to wear new lightweight helmets during pit stops this season. Jack Roush tried that a year ago and learned that crewmen didn't feel that comfortable in the helmets. But Bill Simpson, a veteran safety innovator, has come up with new versions. As frequently as crew men are hit on pit road, NASCAR should order all teams to add that piece of safety equipment(Winston Salem Journal)(2-21-2001)

  • Nashville and Safety: Officials at the new Nashville Superspeedway in Wilson County say they will take every precaution to make the Busch race April 14 as safe as possible. Safety concerns have become an even bigger issue in the wake of Dale Earnhardt's death after a wreck in Sunday's Daytona 500. More at the Tenneseean(2-20-2001)

  • Orlando Sentinel/LA Times/Chicago Tribune: NASCAR idles while drivers die by Ed Hinton(2-11-2001)

  • PPI and Safety: In an effort to improve safety for its NASCAR Winston Cup athletes and personnel, PPI Motorsports will implement several new and continuing initiatives for its Tide Racing(#32-Ricky Craven) and McDonald's Racing(#96-Andy Houston) teams this season. The team's safety measures, which will be developed and used throughout the season, include the following components:
    Testing and development of pit safety helmets for over-the-wall crews
    Required use of race day fire suits by all pit support personnel
    Utilization of the HANS device by drivers #32-Ricky Craven and #96-Andy Houston
    Installation of six-point safety harnesses, foam bead seat liners, pedal-activated throttle safety switches and cable-activated throttles in the team's Tide and McDonald's Fords.
    PPI Motorsports began testing and using the HANS device, six-point safety harnesses, foam bead seat liners and throttle mechanisms last season with positive results. The team's new measures - pit safety helmets and fire suits - extend the initiative beyond the drivers to include other at-risk personnel(PPI Motorsports site)(2-6-2001)

  • Safety Comments from Larry Woody of the Tennessean: All the talk and attention that swirled around the issue of NASCAR safety last year seems to have cooled. Unfortunately. It shouldn’t take another racetrack tragedy to re-focus attention on the matter. Efforts shouldn’t lag in trying to find ways to build safer track walls, reliable ways to prevent stuck throttles, dependable helmets and harnesses. What were sizzling issues in the wake of last year’s driver fatalities seems to have been all but forgotten amid the excitement swirling around the start of a new season and the attendant Daytona 500 dazzle. Here’s three painful reminders why the safety issue should not be neglected: Adam Petty. Kenny Irwin. Tony Roper.(Tennessean)(2-6-2001)

  • NASCAR and Safety: .....when the safety issue blew up big time with the deaths of three NASCAR drivers last summer (NASCAR President Mike) Helton found himself in the middle of a very contentious debate: how should NASCAR deal with safety issues, should NASCAR order tracks to install softer walls, should NASCAR order teams to add crushable materials to the race cars, should NASCAR add a travel medical team to its support staff..... When drivers' complaints reached a fever-pitch Labor Day weekend as they contemplated a return to Loudon, N.H., where Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin were both killed, in accidents in part blamed on sticking throttles, Helton ordered special soft-wall testing at New Hampshire. When he was unsatisfied with those tests, he ordered drivers to race that weekend with restrictor plates. As this season opens, it's still uncertain what Helton might order for Loudon's races this year, if anything. Through it all, Helton has been unusually quiet on the safety issue, preferring to focus on the strengths of NASCAR's safety philosophies and rules, not the weaknesses. What specifically they(NASCAR) might be doing to prevent that(another driver getting killed) isn't clear. The buck appears to be passing to the Detroit car makers (possibly because of liability issues), and during this month's testing in Daytona Beach, Ford and Dodge held special safety meetings with drivers. Safety? Helton said nothing is coming along that line in the next few weeks at least. '`But we are working on different technologies, on different parts and pieces on the race car, getting input from drivers and car builders. We are not in a position today to make any changes. The biggest thing is for us to make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease. We are looking at soft wall technology every day, and we are experimenting with things. We just haven't seen anything yet that's not got something with it that gives us concern. But we are continuing to work on it." Helton said he has no plans to create a traveling medical team, saying he's quite confident that the current medical plan, which relies on local doctors at each track, works very well(PitNow)(1-30-2001)

  • Greenville News: Driver safety at heart of tests by Mike Hembree(1-22-2001)

  • Safety News: NASCAR is conducting safety meetings during each manufacturer's test at Daytona this month to provide Winston Cup drivers with data about safety issues and devices that may consider running in their cars. Ford teams had their meeting on Tuesday during a luncheon break on their second day of testing. General Motors teams are scheduled to have the same meeting Friday and one is also planned during the Dodge test next week. Ford drivers interviewed during Thursday's stops on the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour said that a consultant talked with them about changes they may want to consider in their seat belt systems and about the head-and-neck restraint system commonly called the HANS device. Ford has offered to pay the bill for any driver who orders a HANS device for his car(That's Racin')(1-13-2001)

  • USA Today: Safety a top issue to Helton, Q&A by Skip Wood(8-4-2000)

  • St Petersburg Times: Who's in charge? - Police challenge whether NASCAR can the draw line on crash investigations by Kevin Kelly(7-29-2000)

  • IMPROVING SAFETY STEP-BY-STEP NASCAR officials provided the following list of 52 safety-related rule changes the organization has implemented since 1994:
    1. Researched, developed and mandated roof flaps.
    2. Increased thickness of the fuel cell.
    3. Mandated that fuel cell be of one-piece construction.
    4. Mandated thicker construction of upper and lower A-frame control arms.
    5. Mandated center windshield bar from "halo" bar to back of dash.
    6. Mandated vertical door bars between horizontal bars.
    7. Mandated side rails on Craftsman Trucks.
    8. Changed installation procedure of oil system
    . 9. Mandated location of oil system.
    10. Mandated maximum size of oil system.
    11. Eliminated quick-disconnect fittings for oil system.
    12. Eliminated quick-disconnect fittings for fuel lines.
    13. Eliminated quick-disconnect fittings for brake lines.
    14. Mandated auxiliary on/off switches on steering wheel.
    15. Mandated throttle stops on carburetors.
    16. Mandated wire suspension system for carburetor boosters.
    17. Increased size of drive shaft.
    18. Mandated minimum thickness of read axle housing.
    19. Mandated minimum lug nut thickness.
    20. Mandated date of manufacture be stamped in frames.
    21. Standardized location of shock absorbers.
    22. Mandated cable restraints on hoods.
    23. Mandated cable restraints on deck lids.
    24. Mandated cable restraints on spindles.
    25. Eliminated floating calipers in brakes.
    26. Mandated four-rail, steel-ball fuel check valve.
    27. Standardized construction of frames.
    28. Standardized and increased size of wheel hubs.
    29. Instituted random testing of wheels.
    30. Mandated minimum wheel weight.
    31. Mandated polycarbon windshields.
    32. Doubled retention standard of windshields.
    33. Mandated spoiler angles are selected tracks.
    34. Relocated centerline roof bar.
    35. Standardized and increased distances for certain roll bars.
    36. Added leg extension padding in seats.
    37. Mandated location of main on/off switch to middle of dash.
    38. Mandated 1/2-gallon radiator overflow.
    39. Talladega and Daytona shock and spring rules.
    40. Mandated 3/4-inch U-bolt on rear-end housing.
    41. Increased size and thickness of truck trailing arms.
    42. Mandated thickness of hood-pin posts.
    43. Mandated solid steel hood-pin posts.
    44. Changed and standardized where and how weight can be added to cars.
    45. Eliminated rear window tint.
    46. Mandated bracing inside rear window.
    47. Increased size of rear bumper support.
    48. Increased distance between frame and back of fuel cell.
    49. Raised height and standardized location of "halo" bar from frame.
    50. Increased the thickness in fuel cell carriage.
    51. Mandated fire-resistant shifter boots.
    52. Mandated quick-release latch on window net.
    (Atlanta Journal Constitution)(3-10-2001)

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