It’s no secret in this day and age of dirt track racing, safety has become of the utmost importance. Changes have been made to dirt track cars each year as manufacturers and officials gain more knowledge through research and incidents. The majority of drivers understand the risk associated with racing and take many precautions to make themselves as safe as possible.
One of the biggest safety precautions being taken is the requirement of a full containment seat and investing in a head-and-neck restraint system to help prevent head and spinal cord injuries. See how effective a HANS device can be:
It was noticed during a track and tire test at Bristol Motor Speedway the modified had a standard seat, failing the safety requirements for the Bristol Dirt Nationals. Running the standard seat during practice was done to prove to the entire event staff how important a full containment seat for this event truly is. The modified belongs to Mike VanGenderen, who is in charge of preparing the track. While Mike has not competitively raced his modified in quite a few years, he understands the importance of having a full containment seat and is in the market for replacing his standard seat.
In the early 2000’s, VanGenderen was involved in an on-track incident that required several surgeries to repair muscles and tendons in his right wrist. He no longer has the same mobility in his wrist the average person does, which makes not only getting into the modified more difficult, but complicates shifting with the tight quarters in his modified. For those who don’t know, VanGenderen is also a tall individual and has had difficulty in finding the right type of containment seat that will fit him. While he has ordered and installed two into his modified, He also has a stock car and does have a containment seat, but the stock car has more room, so he is able to find the mobility needed in his wrist to drive.
But why is a full containment seat so important at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bristol Dirt Nationals? After running testing sessions under very tightly controlled situations, VanGenderen said “The G forces were tremendous at Bristol Motor Speedway and in the testing on the track it was absolutely proven to be mandatory to run a full containment seat”
With the banking of the track at an 18% grade and the long straightaways, exiting the corners creates g-forces the average driver is not used to at their weekly track.
The official tech inspector of the Bristol Dirt Nationals, Kelley Carlton, wholeheartedly believes in investing in safety when it comes to performing a hobby. When asked about why he believed it was important to require a full containment seat with a HANS device, Carlton said “With an event of this magnitude, the potential for increased centrifugal forces that guys aren’t accustomed to, and the possibility of increased speed.With the recommendation of NASCAR community as well, it just makes sense and it starts to trickle down.”
When asked what the difference between testing his stock car with the full containment seat compared to the standard seat in the modified, Kyle Brown said “about eight inches of movement.” When going into the exit of the corner, Brown said he was able to feel his shoulders move four- to six inches to the right. The g-forces were so strong, after a handful of laps, he had to hold his head up with his right hand.
“My neck got so sore because the G’s were holding me over so hard. I’m glad they’re mandating [the full containment seat], there’s no way I would race that way.”
With the speed and the unpreventable movement forced upon the body, we at X.CELERATED believe it is one of the most important safety precautions that all drivers must make to race this event. All of the safety procedures can be found at www.bristoldirt.com.