WHAT'S NASCAR DONE?
Gary Nelson, chief of NASCAR's research and development center, says"plenty."
Recent changes include:
* Helmets for the pit wall crewmembers.
* Standards for restraint systems and seats.
* Tethers on wheel spindles and body parts, and an upgraded standard in2003 when NASCAR determined the tethers weren't up to the worst casescenario.
* Head and neck restraints.
* Use of "soft walls" on some tracks.
What's next? Nelson says the R&D center hopes to complete testing andfinal design on a roof-top exit hole to allow drivers to scramble tosafety. The system was tested last fall in a car that rolled six timesat 130 mph. But in what areas is NASCAR being pressured to improve?
* Better training for rescue crews or creation of a mobile rescueoperation patterned after those used in open wheel racing. --Jerry Boone
Fontana, California--The call "yellow, yellow, yellow" comes over theradio, and CART's 16-member safety team rolls onto California Speedwaybefore the last word echoes in Lon Bromley's headphones. "That's all thesignal we get," says Bromley, long-time head of CART's Simple GreenSafety Team of paramedics. "That's our signal to roll the trucks."
In CART, there's no racing back to the start/finish stripe. No driverrushes through a smoke-filled accident scene, hoping to avoid unseencarnage. Each driver knows immediately that rescue rigs are on thetrack. They are expected to slow down, keep their place, and move overto let the rescue crews go by. "The biggest factor in our response timeis the issue of racing under the yellow," Bromley says. "For us,response time is critical. Every second we save brings us closer tosaving a driver from further injury.
Lon Bromley is the long-time head of CART's Simple Green Safety Team ofparamedics.
"After an impact, the head almost always falls forward, and the chinends up on the driver's chest. That cuts off his air. A couple ofminutes without air and you can be looking at serious brain damage."
At California Speedway--the only track where both Winston Cup and CART'sChamp Cars compete--the safety team shows up with four rescue trucks, atleast 16 fully trained paramedics, and a state-of-the-art medical centerthat is better equipped than the emergency room in many communityhospitals.
Long ago in 1984, CART drivers had the same concerns Winston Cup driversvoiced last season. They knew response time to crashes was inadequate,they questioned how well trained some of the people were who showed upto help them, and they wanted organizers to solve the problem before itcost a life.
"What we had were volunteers who showed up at the track just to get infree," Bromley says. "It might be an X-ray technician." Last year, CARTspent about $1.5 million for its rescue team, recognized as the best inthe round-track and road course business. NHRA's Safety Safari holds thedistinction for straightliners. Each rescue truck is equipped withfire-fighting and rescue equipment. They are all identical, so everyparamedic knows where everything is on every truck.
"With four trucks, we can work on multiple wrecks at the same time," hesays. "We don't have to decide who we go to first. We can go to fourdifferent vehicles at once. I don't think many tracks are set up to domultiple rescues."