It’s just about time to rev up your engines!  NASCAR Series is about to kick off another season.  It’s fun to watch the races, but are you aware of how much planning for the safety of the drivers and crews has been put into this sport?  In the earlier days of racing, there was not as much emphasis put on safety, but following some high speed crashes that resulted in death, the industry has focused on everything from the construction of the cars to the gear the drivers and pit crews wear to ensure they are protected.

Here are some interesting facts regarding NASCAR safety of cars and drivers:

  • Roll cages – cages are built with steel tubing.  The middle section of the roll cage protects the driver because of its strong design.  The front clip on the cage will push the engine out of the bottom of the car in the event of a crash, rather than into the drivers’ compartment.
  • Seats – drivers are protected by seats that surround their rib cage and in some types, their shoulders as well.  Harnesses that restrain drivers are much stronger than seat belts in ordinary cars.
  • Wind nets – these keep drivers’ arms from flailing in case of being flipped, as well as keeping debris out of the drivers’ way.
  • Roof flaps – prevent cars from becoming airborne.  You’ll see these flaps if the cars are spinning; they slow down their speed and help the driver regain control of the car.
  • Fuel cells – 22-gallon tanks have built-in safety features to control the threat of explosion.  There is foam inside, which reduces slosh of fuel, and the amount of air in the cell.  In case of an ignition, the foam absorbs the explosion.
  • Restrictor plates – first installed for safety reasons, following a 1988 crash by driver Bobby Allison into a retaining fence racing at a speed of 210 mph, these plates are placed between the carburetor and intake manifold to slow the cars’ speed.  Some drivers now feel that the restrictor plates are the reason for many multi-car crashes.

Restrictor plates are used at two high-banked superspeedways, Talledega and Daytona.

  • Barriers – millions of dollars have been spent to construct barriers with materials that absorb crashes better than concrete.
  • HANS Device – a combination head and neck restraint that NASCAR requires drivers to wear.
  • Protective gear – drivers wear fire retardant suits made of Proban or Nomex material, which is also in the socks, gloves and shoes, as well as lining of their helmet.  Some drivers prefer to wear full-face helmets, while others say a full-face helmet restricts their peripheral vision and choose open-face with goggles.
  • Pit road safety – Pit members must wear helmets, firesuits, fire-retardant gloves, and it is recommended that tire changers wear safety glasses.  Also, race cars must enter the pit road at a safe speed, which is registered on their tachometer.

If you are lucky enough to make a NASCAR race, you may want to take along some sunscreen, noise blocking earplugs, and your own safety sunglasses!  Drive friendly!  Let’s hope for a super-safe 2010 racing season!