Safety News and Links 2004

Safety Pages now divided into a few:
Head and Neck Restraints
Soft Walls/SAFER
The Humpy Bumper
Past Safety News 2004
Past Safety News 2003
Past Safety News 2002
Past Safety News 2001

Some Safety Related Sites/Products

Bell Motor Sports
Ernie Irvan's Race2Safety
G-Force Racing Gear
G-Force Racing Gear
HANS Device
Hutchens Device - Safety Solutions
How Stuff Works: How NASCAR Safety Works
Impact Racing Products - Bill Simpson
Leaf Racewear and Safety Equipment
MGA Research Corporation
NASCAR Safety Equipment's Homepage (unofficial)
Racing Safety Information for racers, track and series operators
Race Safety with John Fitch
RPM Racegear
Simpson Racing Products
Sparco Motor Sports
Speedway Safety
Willans - Seat Belts/Harness
The Wright Device


  • New Race Track Wall Barrier: Safety Innovation Technology Company, Safety Systems, Inc., (SSI) released test results that demonstrate the company's RACE WALL impact barrier offers significantly more impact protection than current products installed on most NASCAR racetracks. The R.A.C.E. Wall ™ (Restricted Air Controls Energy) was conceived out of the need to save lives and subsequently lessen vehicle damage at the same time, "in following with NASCAR'S efforts to control the costs for teams competing in this ultimate sport". The RACE Wall uses proprietary technology in conjunction with specific materials, construction methods and "outside the box" thinking to produce the second-generation softwall.
    SSI developed the patented technology, and used the expert skills of Dr. Ajit Kelkar to evaluate the technology through FEA testing and computer-simulation. Dr. Kelkar, a professor at North Carolina A&T University's Mechanical Engineering Dept., stated that the initial crash results far exceeded our expectations.
    The physical crash tests were performed at MGA Research Corporation in Burlington, Wisconsin and revealed at 90 mph, using NASCAR vehicles, the RACE Wall produced 40% less G forces than current technology used at most NASCAR tracks, in side-by-side comparison tests.
    Tests at speeds over 140 mph are scheduled as the last testing phase and SSI researchers expect the benefits to increase with the added speed. "Our RACE Wall technology lets track owners install a more practical mechanism to primarily protect drivers, who are so important to NASCAR and their fans, "said Tim Smith, Chairman of SSI. "I can't imagine any track owner not wanting the safest track available". Video of the crash test is available for media outlets only. For video information contact John Mims (336) 841-0600. For more information please contact Tim Smith at (336) 889-6581, or for email or see their site: PR)(9-16/10-16-2004)

  • Martin Tests In-Car Caution Lights: A question about NASCAR's failure to implement the in-car caution-light system. Martin just tested a similar system in an ASA car he'll run at Charlotte this month, an audible system. "It goes right through your radio and goes 'Beep-beep-beep' every time the yellow flag comes out," Martin said. "That's nice. I've been very critical of NASCAR for not going with that system. I've heard that they're concerned people could tamper with that system, because there are smarter people with more money here than in ASA, and if someone could make yours go beep-beep-beep, they could change the outcome. That sounds about ridiculous. Now there are a lot of smart people in this garage, but I don't see people being that underhanded. That would be pretty mean. That radio caution system is really good, because then everybody knows when there's an accident. When you see an accident you can't let off; you have to wait for the caution, and that's not great. We see accidents from time to time and have to look around to see if everybody else is backing off. Because you can't see a yellow light (on the track wall) when you're racing and you've got 30 cars around you." The cost of such an in-car caution light system is cheap at $400, for the safety edge it could provide.(Winston Salem Journal)(10-10-2004)

  • Remember the 'roof hatch'?: #6-Mark Martin has a roof hatch on the #6 Viagra Ford, the first time he or any of the Roush drivers have had one. Supposedly, the thinking was is that the faster cars all have one and the team wanted to see if Martin ran faster. As far as I know, only #38-Sadler and #15-Waltrip have a roof hatch, of course Waltrip made the hatch a bit famous by popping up out through it last year at Talladega after winning.(Speed Channel's Happy Hour coverage)(10-2-2004)

  • Wireless Helmet Being Tested: A wireless helmet component is being tested by a few NASCAR drivers for Taylor Solutions. The helmet, outfitted with a Bluetooth wireless card, indicator light and power on/off switch, eliminates a quarter-inch-thick, coiled communication cord -- often duct-taped at its connection and bolted to the floorboard of the race car -- that can slow down a driver's escape. "When that fight-or-flight syndrome hits, when you're in a fire, you just forget about unhooking wires," said Robert Taylor, president of Seattle-area Taylor Solutions. He owns five motorcycles and used to be an amateur racer. The helmet could be approved by mid-season next year, said Taylor. He has spoken with officials but has not yet made a formal application for approval. Only four drivers -- Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson -- have tested the helmet. The device faces at least one hurdle in obtaining NASCAR's official stamp. Drivers speculate that it would be seen as a way to sneak traction control into the cars, against the sport's rulebook. Traction control automatically senses when a wheel is losing its grip on the road and supplies more power or applies the brake to help a driver maintain command. Just this season, NASCAR officials requested that all ignition and electrical components be mounted on dashboards to ease inspection of traction control. Without formal approval, use of the helmet is confined to practices and test runs. But even with limited exposure, driver Biffle said it's his preferred helmet. When Biffle first tested the helmet at Kansas Speedway last September, only he and Crew Chief Doug Richert knew about the change. The crew never noticed: Biffle's voice came through as clear as ever. Traditional helmets connect drivers to their crews through wires and two-way radios. The driver pushes a steering-wheel button to talk. His voice is sent through a microphone in the helmet and down the communications cord to the car's radio system, where it is transmitted to his crew on a radio signal. Taylor's helmet communicates with the car's existing radio system through a 2.4 GHz Bluetooth signal -- the strength of an average cordless telephone -- that allows a driver to communicate with his crew up to 90 feet away from the car, Taylor said. Each card comes with a unique frequency, eliminating the chances of drivers' signals becoming mixed during close racing, he added. The cost of installing the wireless component into a user's helmet is about $1,000,(Indianapolis Star and more info at the Taylor Solutions website)(8-3-2004)

  • Distributorship Signed with Team One Promotions Positions Bald Spot Sports to Enter New Race Markets: Bald Spot Sports [BSS] announced a new distributorship agreement signed with Team One Promotions that will allow Team One to carry adaptations of the BSS line of innovative performance enhancing foam products for racing. Glen Macdonald, founder of BSS said, "We have been looking to break into new markets and to expand our past reputation of offering custom seat solutions primarily for open-wheel drivers and vintage race enthusiasts."
    Todd Ward, president of Team One states, " Driver safety has been at the forefront in all forms of motorsports. BSS, through extensive research, has developed a superior line of bead seat inserts with their Creafoam and Creasorb custom seats. Team One has expanded our services throughout motorsports in recent years due to our customers' recognition of our passion for quality and service. We look forward to working with partners such as BSS and Impact Racing who share that same passion as evident through their superior products."
    With this agreement, Team One becomes the first licensed distributor of BSS products to select its own employees to be trained by BSS to become custom race-seat fabricators. With this collaboration, BSS is hoping to build a database of race knowledge that will help it provide new solutions for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, ASA, Busch, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, etc. Details of the agreements also authorize Team One to distribute products from Impact Racing, a Bill Simpson company, via their web site [] and trackside sales presence.
    According to Macdonald, "Until now, I have been traveling the country non-stop and making a majority of the custom seats myself. It became unrealistic for us to expect growth without sharing our seat knowledge and abilities with reputable partners." Team One, located in Smithfield, NC, will be accepting responsibility for a majority of the custom seat fabrications occurring in the Southeast district of the United States. Macdonald hopes to have the new group of seat crafters trained and certified by the beginning of 2005. Team One crafters will be shadowing Macdonald to learn the skills in hand-on environment.(PR)(6-29-2004)

  • Newman and Gaughan to run a carbon monoxide removing device: #77-Brendan Gaughan tested a Carbon monoxide removal device unit May 5 at Richmond International Raceway during his team's test there. Gaughan and teammate #12-Ryan Newman plan to use the unit in Saturday night's Chevy 400 at the .75-mile Richmond track. Paul Rochotte and a group from Penske Racing and NASA - yes, the rocket science people - have been working on the device for more than a year now. The device weighs less than 3 pounds and looks like a large Thermos bottle. The black carbon-fiber housing contains two filters. The first that uses carbon to take out nasty things like sulfur dioxide from race car emissions. Carbon monoxide goes right through that, however, so the second filter contains a catalyst with a platinum base that was developed by NASA. That catalyst converts carbon monoxide, which is poisonous, into carbon dioxide, which is the natural by-product of breathing. Carbon monoxide poisoning became a major issue last year when driver Rick Mast announced that its effects had forced him to end his driving career. Other competitors have complained about having severe headaches and other symptoms after races. Some drivers still take oxygen immediately after races to help clean the dangerous gas out of their system. NASCAR has worked to develop a filtering system that would improve the quality of air being breathed by competitors. What the folks at Penske Racing have been doing is working on their own system in hopes of making something even better.(paraphrased from a full story at

  • Safety crews train at Dover: Two NASCAR race cars sat at the bottom of the banking between the first and second turns at Dover International Speedway Sunday, with paramedics and firefighters quickly responding to the accident scene. This simulated crash scene was the culmination of a two-day program at Dover designed to help firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMT) gain valuable hands-on experience in race-day scenarios. While the Nextel Cup Series drivers were competing at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, 50 prospective race safety workers were taking part in the fourth annual program at Dover in preparation for June's NASCAR races at the track.(Deleware News Journal)(4-27-2004)

  • NASCAR Working to Make Cars Safer: Part of Gary Nelson's job is to wreck cars. As managing director of NASCAR’s research and development team, he works to make auto racing safer and more competitive. Sometimes that means crash tests. “Rather than just react to what happened, maybe we can try to prevent bad things from happening by being a little more proactive,” Nelson said Wednesday. “And it takes resources to do that.” All of the cars used at the Concord facility have been donated by race teams. Researchers study the cars -- which usually have significant damage from a previous accident -- and look for improvements.(News 14 Carolina)(3-5-2004)

  • OSHA to check out tracks: Federal OSHA inspectors are expected to make the rounds at several NASCAR tracks, in the wake of the investigation of the death of a track safety worker at Daytona during SpeedWeeks. One item of concern to OSHA - the spotters' stands high above the track. OSHA's decision to step into the Daytona case is worrisome in some NASCAR quarters; sports are generally considered immune to such examination.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-23-2004)

  • NASCAR to Hire EMT: NASCAR president Mike Helton Helton said at Thursday's session at the NASCAR research and development center in Concord that the sport will hire an emergency medical technician to travel from race to race and ride in a chase vehicle that's designed to be among the first on the scene in the case of a crash where a driver might be injured. The EMT's role, Helton said, will not be to supervise the medical care given to an injured driver - that would be the job of doctors and other medical personnel from each track's medical staff. "An addition of an EMT to our staff is to help NASCAR provide direction and supervision over the standards and the requirements that we ask the tracks for," Helton said. "Also it provides a familiar face, if you will, in addition to other familiar faces that we'll use in chase vehicles or pace cars or in different situations so that the competitors to see and to feel that they have someone that they recognize that they can communicate with."(

  • Simpson Performance Products, Inc., Mooresville, NC announced that Terry Smith has accepted a newly developed position of General Manager-Team Sales. Smith joins them from Michael Waltrip Racing where he has been Waltrip's Business Manager for 10 years. "Terry has been a tremendous help to me both personally and professionally. I look forward to continuing our relationship now that he is with Simpson." --Michael Waltrip. Smith has been in the racing business since 1976 and began his career as a crew member for Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree on their first race car at Hickory Motor Speedway and later worked with Petty Enterprises, Moroso Racing, Team III Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and finally with Michael Waltrip Racing. Smith's Sales Team will consist of Melanie Shumaker, Sales Manager-NASCAR, Trish Haggerty, Sales Representative, Pam Laury, Sales Representative, Chet Tobias, Sales Representative and Chris Daniel, Service Representative. The entire division will report to Doug Doolen, Vice President of Sales. Since 1959, Simpson Performance Products has been the leading safety manufacturer in the motorsports industry. Simpson believes in putting safety first and is dedicated to elevating the standards of racing safety. For more info see and as most know, Bill Simpson is no longer part of the company but has a new company called Impact Racing Products [can't seem to get past the intro page].(12-22-2003)

  • More Safety from Simpson: Safety innovator Bill Simpson was making the rounds in the Winston Cup garage Thursday, showing off a new fireproof material he says could be worn under a driver's uniform and would greatly increase the protection offered in case of fire. Simpson said the carbonized material would offer 90 seconds or more protection to a driver. Current material lasts only for about 12 seconds, he said.(

  • Waltrip alone with the hatch: It was Micheal Waltrip that helped test the new roof escape hatch system NASCAR has been working on for the last six month or so and it was Waltrip's car that gets to test it out first under race conditions. The #15 is the only car equipped with the new device this weekend at Talladega. Everyone in the garage area gathered around it at one point before inspection to get a look to see how it worked. The hatch, which measures approximately 24 inches by 24 inches on the driver’s side roof, is controlled by steel cable pull cords in the cockpit that are connected to a latch system. By pulling on one cable, it will allow the driver to open the exit to the front or rear of the car. By pulling on both cables, it will allow the driver to completely remove the piece. The system is controlled by the driver, but safety crews also will be able to release the system as well, if needed. Jack Roush said their teams had no immediate interest in installing the devices unless NASCAR made it mandatory or if one of his drivers requested one. "We want to see what the hatch will do in actual conditions before we even consider it," said Roush. The kits will be available through independent vendors, will cost approximately $150.00 and will take the teams about 15 hours to install. Gary Nelson displayed the device on TV a couple of weeks ago and the one he demonstrated showed the hatch opening from side to side but the one on the No. 15 car clearly opened from front to back, or back to front. The escape hatch will allow drivers an additional exit through the top of the vehicle should they be unable to utilize the traditional window exit.(Insider Racing)(9-27-2003)

  • Dale Jr's wreck the hardest hit? Though Dale Earnhardt Jr's late-race accident last weekend at Dover International Speedway wasn't overly spectacular in appearance, the data from the crash could prove otherwise. Earnhardt said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway that, though he was unsure of specifics, the crash may have been the worst recorded to date by black box technology.(see full story at

  • Roof Hatches to debut at Talladega: No less than three NASCAR Winston Cup teams will have roof escape hatches in place for their drivers by the time the series goes to Talladega Superspeedway at the end of this month. Development of the "alternate exit" has been ongoing at NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, N.C. A NASCAR spokesman said managing director of research and development Gary Nelson had a bulletin prepared that would allow teams to begin installing the hatches and its release was imminent.(

  • Escape Hatch Close to being a reality: Gary Nelson was in his Concord, N.C., office Thursday putting the finishing touches on a technical bulletin which will allow competitors to use a roof escape hatch. "My goal is to get this bulletin out by the first of next week," Nelson said. "This will be optional this year, at least, that's the direction we're headed." The first use of the hatch in competition will likely be the EA Sports 500 at Talladega, scheduled Sept. 28. Nelson, NASCAR's managing director of competition, said the hatch design passed two critical tests over the last two weeks. Nelson and his engineering staff at NASCAR's Research and Development Center have spent a year designing and testing the hatch. A stock car outfitted with the escape door was crash-tested at the University of Nebraska two weeks ago and the hatch retained its integrity. "The car flipped six times and the escape door worked just fine after the car came to a stop," Nelson said. The final test was performed by driver Michael Waltrip and his #15 NAPA/Coca Cola/RitzKlaussner Chevy during a two-day tire test at Daytona International Speedway earlier this week. "We wanted to do a high-speed track test and see if the aerodynamic forces caused it to flutter or leak air into the car or anything like that," Nelson said. "The report we got back from the team was it was steady. It didn't move at all. To me that was a key test." Nelson said he was scheduled to meet with engineers at Dale Earnhardt Inc. for a final debriefing to "make sure they didn't find any negatives." "In an early conversation with them, they had no negatives," Nelson said. "They were all very high on the design. We're getting very close." Waltrip, who stands 6-foot-5, is one of the drivers eager to have an alternative escape route from the cockpit of his car. This will be the fifth major safety improvement introduced to NASCAR competitors this season. Other safety measures include the placement of a fire extinguisher near the fuel cell; stronger tether supports on hood; an extra air deflector to keep cars from going airborne; and the recent installation of SAFER barriers at Richmond and New Hampshire.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(9-12-2003)

  • New Helmet: Dale Lott, an entrepeneur who owns a Nashville-based company called Active Xtreme, and Atlanta-based Racing Radios, have developed a new racing helmet designed to reduce driver fatigue and lessen the damage to a driver's hearing. The helmet looks like a standard racing helmet, but the foam interior contains a bladder that is pumped up with air to conform to the driver's head. The earpiece for the two-way radio is inside the bladder, so there's no need for separate earpieces. And when a driver goes through a turn or his head moves from side-to-side, the air pressure, which come from a small hand pump on the helmet, equalizes the pressure on the driver's head. Much of the same technology is being made available for crew members on pit road. Their radios are being designed to reduce background noise and combine the channels a crew member needs to hear. Lott and Racing Radios have gotten the OK from NASCAR to test the helmet and drivers including Robby Gordon have shown interest in using one. The entire driver's unit costs about $1,500 compared to $600 for a conventional system.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)(8-29-2003)

  • 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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