Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Drivers race to buy HANS

Enquirer news services

Michael Andretti wears the HANS device.
(AP photos)
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        DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — More than 40 race drivers ordered revolutionary HANS head-restraint devices Monday in the aftermath of the death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in Sunday's Daytona 500.

        Had Earnhardt been wearing one, “it should have been very helpful,” said Dr. John Melvin, a Detroit-based biomechanical engineer who is one of the world's leading authorities on auto racing injuries.

        “It seems like the whole world was watching that race yesterday, and they're all calling here,” HANS manufacturer Jim Downing said from his Atlanta assembly facility.

        “I think you're going to see a lot of drivers wearing the HANS at Rockingham,” Melvin said of the next Winston Cup race, this Sunday at North Carolina Speedway.

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        But Downing said it would be impossible to have every NASCAR driver fitted for a HANS by the Rockingham race, and added that not all orders Monday were from NASCAR drivers. Many came from other forms of racing.

        “We've shipped 22 (total, in recent months) to Winston Cup drivers,” said Downing. “Even if we had the other 22, to cover most of the rest of the field, they still wouldn't be ready for Rockingham.”

        In addition to fitting the device - a system of tethers running to a collar made of composite ballistic materials - to helmets, drivers also have to get the HANS to fit into their individual seat configurations, Downing said.

        “But many (NASCAR) people have actually woken up,” said Downing. “Rusty Wallace's people called this morning - which is a big turnaround.”

        Veteran Wallace was running close behind his longtime friend when Earnhardt's Chevrolet began to veer out of control on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

        “One of the sponsors for Ken Schrader and Johnny Benson called,” Downing said. “He was trying to figure out how to get his drivers to wear them. Those are two we haven't fitted.”

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