Words and photos by Darr Hawthorne
At the 50th U.S. Nationals I met Tom Gideon, Director of
Safety for GM Racing who was handing out copies of a video
graphically showing photographic evidence of a helmeted crash
test dummy in a simple 30-mph crash. That video changed my
view of drag racing safety forever. While walking in the pro
staging lanes I began to notice the rituals and safety procedures
for most of the popular drivers in our sport. Some drivers
I consider friends and some are acquaintances, but without
a HANS device all are taking an unnecessary chance with their
life and family.
Pro Mod driver Troy Critchley,
who owns a HANS Device but wears a foam neck donut in
competition confessed, "You know -- it's stupidity,"
as to his reason for not using his HANS.
After the April Burk's Blast, we thought it was time to document
the head and neck restraints used by some of our professional
drivers competing on the NHRA POWERade tour at Las Vegas.
Some used the padded neck support donut; a much smaller percentage
utilized the HANS Device. Some of the foam neck donuts looked
as though they'd been through fires and oil baths, and some
had frayed thread seams with exposed foam. I even spotted
one funny car driver who was not wearing fire retardant underwear
beneath his firesuit.
When asked, some drivers said they felt uncomfortable wearing
a HANS Device, and some thought it would limit their ability
to get out of a burning funny car hatch.
Cory McClenathan, who along with Gary Scelzi was one of the
first to regularly use the HANS Device in drag racing said,
"I tried it and just got used to it."
One comment was chilling, "You can't reach for your
HANS Device in the middle of a head-on crash with the wall."
It's clear that the HANS Device will save lives. However,
getting your favorite driver to wear one will, in some cases,
be very difficult to achieve without a mandate from the drag
racing sanctioning bodies.
Here are some photos from the Las Vegas staging lanes. Next
time you're waiting for an autograph from your favorite driver
ask him if he wears a HANS Device.
ED. NOTE: See Q &
A: The HANS Device for some questions and answers about
use of the HANS Device.