ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR NASCAR...
By: Chief Craig C. Clarke
KARNAC.com Safety Editor
So now, we bury one of the greatest drivers of all time. The issues of safety have again reared their
ugly head and said, “Now what are we going to do?” Flat tracks, banked tracks, soft walls, the
HANS© device, restrictor plates, it didn’t look that bad, I have heard a hundred different reasons why Dale Earnhardt should still be alive today. The cold hard facts are that the car did not absorb the impact and ‘G’ forces, the DRIVER did. I have a sneaking suspicion that when the final autopsy report is released, you will see a case of brain stem injury and closed head injury caused from the rapid deceleration of the vehicle into a non-moving stationary wall causing a whiplash
effect of the driver’s head and cervical spine beyond its normal range of motion causing irreparable injuries. Comments were made that the HANS© device would probably not have made any difference in the outcome, I disagree. It is possible that any type of head/neck immobilization device
could have saved him from the force-impact type of life-ending injuries. Proponents will say that
it was just too much momentum traveling at the speed that the car was, and the mechanism of the
crash, and they may be right. So how can we prevent this from happening again? Simply put, you can’t. We can however reduce the amount of ‘G’ force that is transmitted to the driver. The answer however is to make the cars more shock absorbing and able to withstand the shock of crashing into a wall or other hard object. Remember the bumper cars at the amusement park? Same concept. NASCAR© and other stock car sanctioning bodies need to step up to the plate and ask for assistance from the myriad of safety professionals from across the country that have various technical backgrounds, not necessarily racing, but industrial & commercial safety backgrounds, and formulate a safer car. The bottom line is that stock car racing's greatest sanctioning body needs to
ask for assistance, and should set the precedent rather than following a reaction from other groups. The steps that they have taken so far, have been a rolling experiment, trial and error. Unfortunately the error side is not favorable. The latest changes with the aerodynamic packages have enabled a faster tighter grouping of the cars which makes for some great racing...especially when they crash. This tight formation does not afford any room for mistakes. Yes racing incidents and bumping and grinding are part of the sport, but lets not forget that everyone needs a little space for correction especially when you are traveling in excess of 190mph with only a foot of clearance. Numerous drivers including Dale Earnhardt have also expressed their objections to the restrictor plate mandate. They have stated that it takes vital horsepower away from them when they are in a situation where they have to “pull out” from a potential crash and/or incident. There is point where the lines of
safety and speed cross, and it is up to the people who brought you Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty
and the like, to work towards a safer car as well as a safer track. My deepest condolences and
heartfelt wishes to the Earnhardt Family and friends of racing worldwide.
©KARNAC.com & Craig C. Clarke All Rights Reserved
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02-23-2001, 12:06 AM #1Craig ClarkeFirehouse.com Guest
FORCE KILLS, ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR NASCAR...
02-23-2001, 07:26 PM #2RSQLT43Firehouse.com Guest
Sorry chief, but the autopsy said nothing about a brain stem injury, plus there were no broken vertabrae in Dales neck.
Dale was killed by blunt force trauma to the head and chest, nascar found that his left side lap belt had been ripped in half, this allowed Dale to make a severe impact to the steering wheel, most probably with the bottom of his jaw, causing the skull fracture that ran from front to back.
In this event the HANS device would not have mattered, had his harness performed properly, then maybe the device could have proved beneficial, but I like most other people did not believe this to be that hard of an impact into the wall, so had the harness held up, maybe he would have walked away from this one also.
I do agree with making the car to absorb more of the impact, and soft walls would make sense also, but until nascar and its racers can figure out solutions to these problems, I will pray that they all stay safe.
02-24-2001, 01:01 AM #3Engine69Firehouse.com Guest
And now the question is, would a full face helmet have improved the survivability in this case? While there was blunt force trauma to the chest, It sounds like the skull fracture was the "life ending injuries" from this crash. I am curious to hear some opinions on how the full face helmet would have dealt with this kind of impact.
02-26-2001, 08:50 AM #4JimTFirehouse.com Guest
I am extremely saddened by the loss of Earnhardt. I, too, have not heard anything specific about a brain stem injury. I went to the Reuters news page last night and took a look at the pics of Earnhardt's drivers cockpit. Notice the major deformation of the steering wheel...one "spoke" of the wheel is bent at least 45 degress...just below a major blood spill. It seems pretty obvious that the man hit the steering wheel with a major impact. To me, this goes along with the theories that #1) the tear in the lap belt allowed him to hit the steering wheel with such force that it fractured his skull from front to back, and #2) it is possible that a full front helmet would have absorbed some of the impact, possibly making a difference in his injuries. In any case, we have lost a true champion...and as Ken Squire so eloquently put it "The compass of NASCAR has lost its true north..."
God Bless... Jim
If you are still interested, go to NASCAR Online and read the latest on the belt. This is the first article I have read that mentions the basil skull fracture.
[This message has been edited by JimT (edited 03-02-2001).]
02-26-2001, 08:27 PM #586RescuetechFirehouse.com Guest
Well, here we are again. There are people who want to put an end to NASCAR races. I am a fan of the SPORT, and I know there is danger in it everytime they start the cars. But there is a major difference between deceleration force and proper equipment. There are reports that the saftey harness holding Dale in his car was not secured properly. the manufacturer and NASCAR are looking into it. There are also reports that Dales crew may have modified the harness as well. And reference to the HANS system, it may have saved his life, and it may have killed Tony Stewart in his crash. they havn't done enough testing with that system to warrant everyone using it. It was a very freak and simple accident, he was dead when he came off of the wall. Plain and simple. His half helmet did contribute to his fatal injury. The bottom line is, his safety protection broke down. In regards to the comments about restrictor plates, they are needed to keep the cars from building horsepower and speed. we seem to be contradicting ourselves. This tragedy could have happend at Bristol or Martinsville, with the same results. I really don't agree with the "safer car" mentions either. Look a few laps before Dale crashed. Tony Stewart should be dead. His car went airborne, backwards and all other ways possible. They are looking into "softer walls like in CART and IMSA racing circuits. In conclusion, wether we believ in a god or not, when it is your time, it is your time. we don't have control over it. Be safe.
03-08-2001, 01:01 AM #6dlyFirehouse.com Guest
Just wondered if anybody else saw that Jeff Gordon took off some sort of head and neck harness in the winner's circle last Sunday in the Lost Wages Race before he got out of his car?
ps I got to change my fravite driver from Mark Martin to somebody else (geez penile problems commercials suk.D)
Old School...Learning New Tricks
03-08-2001, 01:31 AM #7Craig ClarkeFirehouse.com Guest
You did see Jeff Gordon taking off the HANS© device. Did you notice how quickly it came off even though he was sitting in the car for a little while. He stated that
the one he was wearing was a "generic" size and caused him a little soreness
on his collar bone, and that his custom sized one should be available soon.
If this device saves just one life, it is well worth the price. Stay safe!
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