Inches Away From Death 36 Weeks Out of The Year


Nascar is a sport that is way more complicated and complex than one would think. Going over 200mph inches away from the wall or another car 36 weeks out of the year. One slightest move, one slightest error could kill you or possibly worse another driver. And yet no driver has died in almost 20 years. What has Nascar done to create this safer environment?

In the early 2000’s safety wasn’t as prominent in the sport, but all it takes is one wrong move to change everything. On the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhart was blocking so that his teammate Micheal Waltrip could win, when he was scrapped by Sterling Martin and hit the wall doing 180 mph. Dale was then T-boned by Ken Schrader, also doing 180mph. The doctors said the Legend Dale Earhat died on impact due to head injuries. 7 time champion Dale Earhart also known as The Intimidator was gone in a blink of an eye. That is when Nascar decided enough was enough and since that tragic day in 2001 not a single driver in any of the top series has died.

        If the Legend Dale did not die there is a very good chance we would not have the precautions that we have today. The first thing Nascar did was make HANS a mandatory piece of equipment every driver needs, what this does is it clips to the back of your helmet and helps stabilize the drivers neck, so in a wreck the drivers neck and head do not move around as much.  

One year later in 2002 Nascar added 30’ padded walls at all tracks that help absorb the impact of a crash, instead of hitting a concrete wall. These walls are SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers. They are 30 inches thick and took a total of 5 years to install in all the tracks.

In January 2003 Nascar opened the Research and Development center. In this massive 47,000 square feet facility is where Nascar evolves, designs and tests new safety equipment. As well as develop better ways to make sure everybody follows the inspection rules.

In 1997 Nascar made a five point harness a requirement. Today Nascar requires a seven point harness that is latched into the seat, they recommend a nine point harness. Aswell they have made the cars have a double rail frame on the driver side and a steel plate to protect from punctures. The driver was moved more towards the middle of the car to allow for these precautions. At the track teams are required to go through intense testing before any race.

Once the car is at the track the teams are assigned their own garage area and a pit area. Then they get two chances to pass an intense inspection. If they need a third try that teams starts at the back of the race. Inspection so precise that it can scan the hair on your body. Using 16 different cameras and eight different projectors at different spots Nascar can create an exact 3-d model of the car and can tell down to the 200-thousandth of an inch if a car is to spec. This new way of inspecting cars can leave lower level teams at a disadvantage though. All of the big name teams have these inspection cameras at their facilities so they usually know that their car is perfect before they even get to the track. While the lower level teams may not be able to afford it.

        Ryan Newman is a seasoned driver and safety advocate. In 2009 Newman was in a crash and pushed Nascar to add more support across the front of the roll cage. This became known as the Newman bar. Ryan Newman was racing for the 2020 Daytona 500 win when on the last lap disaster struck. Ryan Blaney was in second place and turned Newman into the wall doing 190mph and Newman started to flip through the air when Corey Lajoioe hit Newman mid air also doing 190mph then he slid on his roof finishing the crash on his roof. Many believe that the Newman bar saved his life. Most people would agree that this was the worst crash since Dale Earhnart but a major difference is Ryan Newman was able to walk out of the hospital two day later holding his daughter’s hands. 

The change in Nascar started with a legend Dale Erhanrt. And throughout the years Nascar has made safety their top priority. And with the technology today the drivers are safer than ever.


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