CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR will only allow its competitors to
use the HANS device in 2005 because the other head-and-neck
restraint system did not meet performance standards.
Drivers have had a choice of restraint systems since 2001, when
NASCAR began requiring all competitors to use either the HANS or
Hutchens devices following an investigation of Dale Earnhardt's
NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said Monday that the Hutchens failed
to meet minimum standards from testing by SFI Foundation Inc. The
HANS device was approved by SFI, a California-based nonprofit
organization that sets standards for specialty/performance
automotive and racing equipment.
The HANS (Head and Neck Support) resembles a collar and slides
on like a football players' shoulder pads, then hooks onto the
helmet. The Hutchens device is a series of straps that connect
across the chest and at the waist.
Most drivers preferred the HANS, but Ryan Newman and Tony
Stewart have been known to race with the Hutchens.
NASCAR mandated use of a restraint system in October 2001, after
an investigation of Earnhardt's death the previous February.
Earnhardt died of a skull fracture, the same injury that killed
NASCAR drivers Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Blaise Alexander in a
Many experts believed the fractures could have been prevented
with use of a restraint system. But with drivers reluctant to use
restraint systems and lingering questions about their
effectiveness, NASCAR did not require their use until Earnhardt's
death made the issue a top priority.
After numerous studies, the sanctioning body required the use of
a restraint and allowed drivers to choose.
Last season, NASCAR evaluated several different systems, hoping
to approve new ones before the 2005 season.