Monday, August 23, 2010

Elliott Sadler's NASCAR Crash -Crash Report

CONCORD, N.C. -- Sam Johns stands next to the remains of Elliott Sadler's car that almost went head-on into an inside retaining wall on Sunday at Pocono Raceway. The director of operations at Richard Petty Motorsports isn't wearing rubber gloves and his pockets contain no swab boxes, but make no mistake, this is a CSI-type investigation.

CSI Concord, we'll call it.

In this case, the investigation isn't to determine how someone was killed, but how a life was saved -- or at least how a serious injury was prevented.

Normally, the car would have been torn down and discarded into the junk pile within hours of arriving at the shop on Monday. Because of the severity of the crash -- NASCAR officials told Sadler it was the hardest-recorded in the sport's history -- it may be days, weeks or months before this case is completely closed.

As Johns speaks, Hendrick Motorsports officials are on their way to pick up the carbon fiber seat their company built to perform X-rays to make sure nothing was compromised. Sadler's helmet, seat belts and HANS (Head and Neck restraint) device also are being shipped off for further evaluation.

The same goes for the oil lines and any other parts that are constructed outside these walls.

This is as close to an autopsy as you'll find in auto racing when death isn't involved.

"We've been slow and meticulous on this, taking it apart to make sure areas didn't fail where we don't know just looking at it," Johns said. "The biggest thing we can do after a crash like this is continue to learn and educate ourselves."

Safety education became more a priority than ever after Feb. 18, 2001, the day Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500 with an impact to the right front similar to Sadler's. It's why drivers are required to wear the HANS and six-point seatbelt, why NASCAR developed the new car with the seat further from the door, a higher ceiling in the roll cage and crush zones, and why HMS developed the carbon fiber seat.

It's probably a good reason why nobody in NASCAR's top three series has been killed in a crash since that dark day.

It's why Sadler walked away on Sunday with only a few bumps and bruises -- not even a headache the next day.

People can call this car ugly all they want, but it sure looked beautiful from where Johns was standing.

"There's been times we've complained a lot about the car, but boy it has done its job from a safety standpoint," Johns said.

No doubt. And Sadler has no doubt he would have been seriously injured -- or worse -- in the old car without the latest innovations.

"Ten years ago in an aluminum seat and no HANS and having that same wreck in the old car we'd be talking about something different now," Sadler said. "All the tedious stuff that NASCAR holds teams accountable for, I understand that better after a wreck like this."

Reenacting the incident

Before we get back to the dissection of the car, let's reenact what happened.

Sadler was coming off Turn 1 with Sam Hornish Jr. and Reed Sorenson racing side by side in front of him. He was drafting to catch them when he noticed smoke from an incident that he later discovered began with Jimmie Johnson getting into the back of Kurt Busch.

As Sadler slowed like the cars in front of him, teammate AJ Allmendinger got into his rear bumper. When Allmendinger turned right, Sadler's car shot to the left, slid through the grass and into the retaining wall where the right front took the biggest blow.

Sadler didn't anticipate a hard hit. He figured at worse he'd glance off the rail, get the damage repaired and continue the race.

"All of a sudden it was holy … " Sadler recalled.

Replays slowed frame by frame by Johns and NASCAR show Sadler's body lunged forward at least six inches. Sadler doesn't remember this, but knows, were it not for the HANS and six-point harness that allowed his body to move all at once instead of the whiplash effect that led to Earnhardt's death, he might not be here to talk about it.

The six-point harness that was mandated to replace the five-pointer in 2007 gets overlooked a lot because of the HANS, but it played a major role. It kept the pelvis area in place -- the five-pointer allowed the body to slide forward -- and forced Sadler's body to move from the waist down in unison.

That put most of the stress on the upper body that absorbed much of the blow instead of creating a whipping motion that could have created problems. It knocked the breath out of Sadler and the belts broke the skin slightly, but nothing more.

As the car bounced off the wall, spun around and totaled the rear of the car, the engine flew out. The best Johns could figure was that the mounts were broken on impact. There's a large dent near the gas pedal where the engine first lunged, but no major structural damage to the shell that protected Sadler.

The car eventually came to rest with the engine not far away. Sadler was able to climb out on his own, and had enough awareness to lay flat on the ground to stretch his abdomen while trying to catch his breath.

Officials don't have much more to go on in determining exactly what came off the car at what time because there's only one 5- to 10-frame video captured near the point of impact. An aerial shot is usually the most helpful, but there was none.

What officials know is the fuel line inside the car wasn't compromised, that the front end suspension collapsed as it was supposed to and the tethers in place to hold wheels, hood and other parts together did their job.

"To me, the most important thing was the driver cockpit was in one piece," Sadler correctly surmised. "That did its job. The HANS device did its job. The knee knocker in between my legs did its job.

"All that did well."

Back to the autopsy

Tom Gideon was in his car listening to the race on the radio when he heard about the collision. Before the car was returned to the garage on two wreckers, NASCAR's director of safety initiatives was in communication with track officials.

By Monday morning, Gideon was at RPM with three inspectors going piece by piece through the wreckage. Sometimes they bring the car to the Research and Development Center in Concord, but RPM being across the street made it easy.

The initial survey?

"Everything worked pretty good," Gideon said.

For more than an hour Gideon and his crew went over the car trying to determine how each part worked. The tether system for the most part held together, but there were pieces separated from the car that will require further research to see what happened.

"We don't want parts to come off," Gideon said.

Most of the focus was on the shell and everything inside of it. Despite a few wrinkles on the dash and floor, nothing unusual.

"You can see right there where the engine started to get back into the car," said Johns, pointing to the dent near the gas pedal. "But for the most part everything did a real good job."

You can't say enough about how well the carbon fiber seat worked in tandem with the HANS and six-point harness. Keeping the driver stable is the No. 1 priority. It helps prevent basal skull fracture that was ruled the cause of Earnhardt's death.

It's actually quite amazing to see how intact the shell was. Other than the mangled gas pedal and minor movement of the firewall, one would hardly know it had suffered trauma.

“ We're still studying it. We still have data coming in. … We're all the time looking at getting stronger. We never rest. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. ” -- Tom Gideon, NASCAR director of safety initiatives

Because Sadler is taller than most drivers, having the additional head room in the new car didn't hurt either. What little movement his body made wasn't impacted by contact with the roll cage.

Because all chassis have to be certified at the R&D Center, each should be able to take on the same blow with similar results. With the old car, teams often made tweaks that could change the outcome and make the data collected after such a crash less consistent.

As bad as this looked on TV, it's a valuable test for NASCAR and teams.

"This test apparently worked well," Gideon said.

What most impressed about this process was how open RPM has been with NASCAR and other teams. There was no rushing to cover up areas of the car where the organization may have found an advantage. If a competitor calls with questions, response is quick.

"When we're talking about safety of the drivers, it's not a competition thing now," Johns said. "We all need to protect our drivers. We'll share whatever information we can with a team."

That wasn't always the case before 2001. Live -- or in that case die -- and learn.

This is no crime scene, but it certainly is treated like one for the sake of safety.

"We're still studying it," Gideon said. "We still have data coming in. … We're all the time looking at getting stronger. We never rest. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt."

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Bell Racing Europe SA has reached an agreement with Bell Sports, Inc., a division of Easton Bell Sports, Inc. to extend Bell Europe’s exclusive license to manufacture, distribute and market auto racing helmets and accessories under the Bell Helmets trademark to the territories of North and South America. Easton Bell Sports will maintain operational responsibility for Bell Racing Company until September 30, 2010, at which time; Bell Racing Europe will assume marketing and distribution responsibility for auto racing helmets and related accessory products sold under the Bell brand in these territories.

“Bell Racing Europe has been an outstanding partner in executing our European strategies and we feel this extended partnership will allow synergies that benefit both organizations while strengthening the Bell brand across multiple countries,” said Steve Bigelow, EVP & GM, Bell Sports, Inc. “The decision to expand our relationship with Bell Racing Europe is based on their experience in working with the FIA and our collaborative efforts to develop a new line of auto racing helmets for Bell Racing

Bell Racing Europe’s new organization, serving the North and South American markets, will operate under the name Bell Racing USA and will be based in the United States in Champaign-Urbana Illinois. Kyle Kietzmann, current General Manager of Bell Racing Company will join the new organization as President of Bell Racing USA and will be responsible for managing all aspects of the U.S. based operation including sales, marketing, product development, distribution and sponsorship. “Consolidating the Bell Racing Europe and Bell Racing USA operations under common ownership will create a worldwide organization with the mission of developing innovative, technologically superior auto racing helmets that maximize protection and improve driver performance,” said Kyle Kietzmann, President, Bell Racing USA.

“We are passionate about the sport of auto racing and committed to enhancing Bell Racing’s position as the number one car racing helmet manufacturer in the world.”

“We view this as a very positive move” said Martine Kindt-Cohen, CEO Bell Racing Europe and CEO Bell Racing USA. “We’ve been working with Bell since 1985, but the fundamental change happened when we acquired the European and Asian license in 2001. Bell Racing’s work with the FIA on the 8860 Advanced Helmets and on the children’s helmets has given Bell a serious technological advantage which will be implemented in the new Bell Racing
USA product line. We are also very happy to have Kyle Kietzmann as co-owner and President of the new operation; Kyle has been with Bell Auto Racing for so many years, and his experience and motivation are invaluable.”

All helmet products will be designed in the United States and Europe, engineered and
manufactured in Bell Auto Racing’s exclusive 50,000 square foot Asian manufacturing, research and development facility, staffed by over 90 manufacturing and engineering employees and equipped with the latest technologies, manufacturing and testing equipment. The effective date of the agreement will coincide with the launch of the Snell SA2010 standard for auto racing helmets. Bell Racing USA will introduce a completely redesigned 2011 product line on October 1, 2010. The new product line, specially developed for the US market, will incorporate many of the technological innovations and design features developed by Bell Racing Europe for the advanced
FIA8860 super helmets.

The ownership group for Bell Racing USA has over 70 years of combined experience in the auto racing industry and has worked with the world’s greatest drivers in all forms of racing including F1, Rally, Indy Car, NASCAR and NHRA. The Bell Racing USA ownership team includes:
*Martine Cohen-Kindt, CEO, Bell Racing Europe and Bell Racing USA
*Stephane Cohen, President, Bell Racing Europe and Chairman Bell Racing USA
*Stephan Kindt, Sales and Marketing Director, Bell Racing Europe
*Kyle Kietzmann, President and COO, Bell Racing USA.

Bell Racing, founded in 1954, specializes in designing, developing, manufacturing and distributing auto racing helmets to professional and amateur drivers competing in the sport of auto racing and go-karting. More champions in all forms of racing have worn Bell helmets than any other brand. The Bell name is synonymous with quality, performance and engineering excellence.

Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. is a leading designer, developer and marketer of branded
equipment and accessories that enhance athletic performance and protection. The Company markets and licenses products under such well-known brands as Easton, Bell, Riddell, Giro and Blackburn. From Easton to Riddell to Bell to Giro, the brands of Easton-Bell Sports set the standard of design and protective excellence across multiple sports, equipment categories and sales channels. Our commitment to this philosophy and standard is reflected in our unrivaled history and foundational belief in technological innovation. It is the reason each brand holds a strong number one status within key product categories in baseball, softball, hockey, football, cycling as well as snow, action and power sports.

Bell Helmets is a licensed trademark of Bell Sports, Inc. Easton Bell Sports, Inc. retains all rights to the Bell Helmets name and trademark under the terms of this agreement.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Elliott Sadler's NASCAR Crash - Among Hardest Recorded

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Elliott Sadler says NASCAR officials told him his head-on collision with the inside retaining wall at Pocono Racing on Sunday was the hardest recorded in the history of the sport.
NASCAR did not give Sadler the number of G-forces recorded by the black box device and the governing body typically does not release that information.
"We do not share those numbers except with the team and the folks at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska," NASCAR said in a statement.
"They want to meet with me this weekend," Sadler said on Tuesday. "But we were told this morning that it was the hardest one they have in their data in history."
That means harder than Kyle Petty's 2003 crash at Bristol which, according to published reports, was the hardest at the time at more than 80 Gs (80 times the force of gravity).
Other hard hits that NASCAR publicly has claimed among the hardest include Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 2003 crash at Talladega, David Reutimann's 2007 crash at California and Jeff Gordon's 2008 crash at Las Vegas.
Sadler amazingly walked away from his crash with only a sore right shoulder and collarbone, and minor scrapes from the seat belts. He credited the HANS device (Head and Neck restraint), the carbon fiber seat designed by Hendrick Motorsports and new safety designs NASCAR implemented in the new car for protecting him.
"I'm very thankful for that," Sadler said. "I think 10 years ago in the aluminum seat and no HANS and having that same wreck we'd be maybe talking about something different now."
Sadler issued a challenge to Pocono Raceway to bring track standards up to car standards. He was assured by NASCAR president Mike Helton that the governing body is working with the track to make that happen.
Track officials had said before the race that they planned upgrades, but didn't have time in the six weeks between the June event in which Kasey Kahne nearly went over the backstretch wall on Sunday. Among the expected improvements are SAFER barriers on several inside walls such as the one Sadler hit, a catch fence on the back stretch and possibly a skid pad to replace the grass runoff area that Sadler slid through.
"This is 2010, not 1970," said Sadler, who won Saturday's Truck Series race at Pocono. "We have a lot of knowledge now on SAFER barriers, things the tracks can do to help us in case we're in a wreck.
"If you want to be a part of the Sprint Cup series and Nationwide Trucks you should be held accountable to have the latest and greatest safety stuff available just like the teams and NASCAR do with the cars."
David Newton covers NASCAR for He can be reached at

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jordan Williams unhurt after dramatic crash at Snetterton

Briton escapes without injury after multiple barrel roll

Jordan Williams escaped completely unhurt from a dramatic crash in the second race of the weekend at Snetterton (Saturday 26 June).
Williams had taken his first ever single seater victory in the opening race, having jumped pole sitter Nigel Moore at the start of the race, propelling him into third in the overall standings.
The 19-year-old couldn't replicate his great start in race two, however, and slipped back one place to third as Maxime Jousse passed him away from the line. Williams settled in behind Jousse around Riches and Sear corners, before boosting down the Revett straight as he attempted to reclaim second on the entry to the Esses.
Williams' boost coincided with Jousse missing a gear, creating a big speed differential between the pair. As Williams went to the inside to overtake, however, Jousse can be seen to move across the young Briton's path, with Williams' car unavoidably hitting Jousse's rear and becoming airborne.
In what is a huge testament to the strength and safety of the Formula Palmer Audi car, Williams' car then rolls five times down the straight before eventually coming to a rest, with Williams able to jump out of the car almost immediately.
Despite the crash, for which Maxime Jousse was officially reprimanded, Jordan was able to contest the final two races of the weekend the next day in a spare car - demonstrating great determination and resolve to take a top ten finish in the final race of the weekend.
You can watch onboard footage of the dramatic incident, including riding with Jordan Williams, below:

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Interview with Dr. Robert Hubbard - HANS Device Inventor

FOX Sports Interview with Dr. Robert Hubbard, the inventor of the HANS Device.

<a href="" target="_new" title="Wind Tunnel: Dr. Robert Hubbard">Video: Wind Tunnel: Dr. Robert Hubbard</a>

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The Top 5 Stories that Changed Sports this Decade

The top 5 stories that changed the world of sports as we know it in the 2000s.
#5 – Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500; February 18th, 2001.
Sports heroes are not supposed to be killed suddenly in a sport they love. However, it does happen. On Sunday, February 18th, 2001, on the final lap in NASCAR’s season-opener, the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt slammed the outside retaining wall in turn 4. As the field passed by, Earnhardt’s car slid to the infield, as the car he owned driven by Michael Waltrip won the Daytona 500. Rescue workers rushed to Earnhardt’s car, where he was airlifted to a local hospital, and later pronounced dead.
Sometimes it takes tragedy to find a fault in a sport. Following the incident, NASCAR took many steps to ensure driver safety. They began the mandated use of the HANS device, a head-and-neck restraint system. Just recently, the new Car of Tomorrow was introduced to make the car safer.
Unfortunately, it often takes tragedy to show that change is necessary.

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2010 Snell Ratings

Helmet technology will take another step forward as manufacturers begin to offer a new generation of helmets designed to meet the new Snell Foundation 2010 certification standard. This new standard, which incorporates a radical shift in the way that helmets are tested and constructed, will result in helmets that are both much lighter and much safer than ever before. In order to understand what this new standard will mean to you, here is a brief overview of changes you can expect to see.

Head Form = Circumference

A= 50 cm
C= 52 cm
E= 54 cm
J= 57 cm
M= 60 cm
O= 62 mm

The biggest change in the new helmet safety standard is they are going to adopt variable head form sizes. In prior Snell standards, they tested the helmets using a standard sized “dummy” head with a standard circumference to mimic the size, shape and weight of a human head. The new 2010 standard is going to require a number of variable head forms that will better approximate the cubic mass and circumference relationship of various head sizes. Everyone obviously does not have the same head size, so Snell is requiring the manufacturers to create six different head forms to test.

Every helmet size will be a little more unique. Manufacturers are going to have to change construction somewhat between sizes in a given model and this is requiring them to look at new, advanced shell construction methods to give them as light a weight shell as possible that’s also as strong as possible. For each helmet tested, it is dropped twice and there are different criteria for the first and second drops depending on head form size.

Since the helmets will be properly sized to the actual head geometry of the racer, it’s going to be a better helmet because it’s not going to shift or move during an impact.

With advances in head and neck restraint systems (HNR),such as the HANS Device, the new Snell standard will have a component that will test for compatibility of the helmet shell with the HNR. The attachment anchor points (where the device attaches to the helmet) will require proper reinforcement in those areas to withstand lateral shear force that they may see in an impact. Manufacturers will most likely view the helmets and HNR as part of an overall driver safety system.

Snell introduces new helmet ratings every five years. If you have an SA2005 helmet, it should be compatible for some time to come. When the SA2005 standard was introduced, most sanctioning bodies started phasing out the use of SA95 helmets. For those that will be interested in getting one of the new SA2010 rated helmets, availability from manufacturers will most likely begin in October 2010 and be phased in throughout 2011.

If you would like to read more about Snell testing and standards, you can visit their website at

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