Drivers, track managers say safety improving in auto racing


DAVIESS COUNTY, Ky, (WEHT) As NASCAR driver Ryan Newman remains in the hospital following his crash Monday, drivers and track managers say safety is a top priority before and during races.

“When I had seen it, you know, of course, the worst thing comes to your mind when you see that sort of wreck,” said John Hayden, who raced stock cars and other vehicles for 25 years. He says he knew Newman’s wreck wasn’t good when he saw it because Newman was hit on the driver side window.

“The driver is sitting right there. I know he’s got roll bars around him, the cage around him, but to take a shot in that window area and you really have to think about the speed there too,” Hayden said.

His thoughts, and the thoughts of Scott Slayton of Kentucky Motor Speedway, turned to the driver from neighboring Indiana.

“He’s probably a lucky man,” Slayton said.

Another reason may be the emphasis on safety. Slayton and Hayden say safety technology in race cars has improved over the years to better protect drivers. For example, the head rest has been redesigned to make sure a driver’s head is not suddenly moving, even during an accident. Other devices include the HANS device, which is attached to helmets to help protect drivers in crashes. Slayton says helmets and belts have dates telling a driver when those should be replaced.

“Most of these guys that do race, that has to be in the back of your mind as they do race. Sometimes a new helmet is a couple hundred bucks and that’s a good deal to make sure that you do stay safe,” he said.

Hayden says he’s had crew members make sure his safety gear was properly installed before the engines start.

“I would have a crew member to make sure my HANS device is latched properly. My belts, make sure all that stuff. There’s been times that you might catch it that your belts are not latched right,” he says.

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(This story was originally published on February 18, 2020)

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