How the HANS device overturned the script for the security novel in 2000

  • Invented by Dr. Robert Hubbard and popularized by him and his business partner Jim Downing, a five-time IMSA Champion, HANS is designed to prevent basilar skull fractures.
  • Brett Bodine began wearing the unit in NASCAR in 2000 after the deaths of drivers Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin.
  • Bodine was one of five drivers to don Hans’ car in the ill-fated 2001 Daytona 500.

    After the deaths of the NASCAR drivers Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin during the 2000 season, Brett Bowden was committed to wearing the HANS device.

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    Brett Bodine was the first NASCAR driver to wear a HANS (Head and Neck Support) device in Cup competition.

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    Bodine removed the headrest on his seat to fit the machine for some test laps during a NASCAR-sanctioned test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where teams are invited to prepare for upcoming Cup races on the relatively flat 2.5-mile tracks at Indy and Pocono. By the time he got to Pocono, Bodine had the headrest installed correctly in the cockpit and was ready to go. What he was not prepared for was the reception of his fellow Cup drivers.

    “When I got to Pocono, everyone was calling me names,” he said. “Things like homo and sissy. People were asking me, “What do you want to use something like that for?”

    Invented by Dr. Robert Hubbard and promoted by him and his business partner Jim Downing, five-time IMSA champion, HANS was designed to prevent the basilar skull fractures that killed Busch Series driver Petty and Trophy driver Irwin in collisions at the New Hampshire Oval just two months apart.

    Jim Downing, an EMSA racer

    IMSA rider Jim Downing was a developer of the HANS device. First worn during a race in 1986.

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    Bowden, who earned an engineering degree from the State University of New York, respected the principles behind the device. In frontal collisions, it sometimes prevented fatal excursions of a helmeted head by transferring energy through its two cords to a carbon fiber collar, and then to the torso.

    “We needed to improve safety,” Bowden said. “No matter if people were referring to you and calling you names, you had to come up and say it was the right thing to do. The longer it went on, the more people would come up to me and say, ‘Well, what’s the deal? .

    Bodine was one of five drivers to don Hans’ car in the following year’s Daytona 500. Like many drivers, Dale Earnhardt resisted the odd new device, but he was more aggressive in speaking out against the need for improved safety.

    The monk said: “Tie kerosene rags around your ankles so that the ants do not crawl and eat the donkey.” Before the race, Earnhardt visited the home of Dale Jarrett, another Hans-wearing friend, to inquire about a strange new device, but remained reluctant to use it, the pattern among star drivers in every major series.

    Bill Elliott was one of many who decided not to wear Hans for this year’s 500, in part because he wore Ray Evernham The team ran out of time trying to adjust its seat for a proper fit. But after Earnhardt died on the last lap from a basilar skull fracture, “he wore one at the next race at Rockingham,” Evernham said.

    By the time the Cup Series returned to Daytona for the July race, just over half of the Cup drivers were using Hans’ car. In the fall of 2001, NASCAR mandated headrests for Cup drivers before the race at Talladega, including a replica Hutchens device provided by Safety Solutions owner Trevor Ashlin that used harnesses and a carbon collar. The device was eventually banned after John Baker was killed with a basilar skull fracture while wearing Hutchins in a crash in Irwindale, California during a NASCAR Southwest Series race in 2002 and points leader Sterling Marlin suffered a broken neck while wearing one at a Cup race in Richmond .

    Adam Petty’s father, Kyle, was among the five who wore Hanes in the 2001 Daytona 500. Ironically, he was the first driver to wear Hanes in NASCAR competition in the early ’90s, albeit a model that had three ropes and a large collar around.

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    Kyle Petty was one of five riders to wear the Hanes device in the 2001 Daytona 500.

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    Driving for Felix Sabates, Petty wore the first massive model at the Rockingham races to help support his neck over 500 miles on the steep course. He was interested in Head and Neck Support behind the HANS acronym.

    “I’ve crashed so many times and I’ve had a sore neck,” said Petey. It was about trying to slow some of these things down. A head injury didn’t even cross my mind.” An increased emphasis on aerodynamics meant smaller window openings and Petty abandoned using the HANS due to problems getting out of the car at speed.

    The bulk has always been an issue with the first model developed in 1997 with sled testing followed by trials with CART drivers, and the smaller HANS model introduced to NASCAR at Indy testing in 2000 remains the standard for headliners around the world.

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