The worst can happen at any...
The worst can happen at any time. Is your car as safe as it can be? Or are you skipping simple steps to ensure your safety? Photo by Jeff Huneycutt
The typical racer understands that he has to protect himself from the worst happening during an accident. He will do so by purchasing a helmet, a seat, and a good set of belts.
But this is where I think most teams lose focus: Safety doesn't stop at the driver's window net. Rather it extends to the entire car. That's not to mention the competitors around you. Don't forget you're held responsible for the integrity of the parts and pieces that make up your racecar. If a piece flies off and punctures another racer's tire and sends him into the wall, it's not the track's fault, or the other driver's fault. The fault lies with you.
This is why it is so vitally important to ensure the safety of your vehicle. The majority of it is simple maintenance that needs to be performed after every race weekend. For example, simply double checking every nut and bolt to ensure that they are tight is a great way to make your racecar safe. When I was racing Karts, my dad would play a simple game with me to make sure everything was tight. Early in the morning before he left for work he would walk out to the shop and loosen one bolt on the Kart. Then, at some point during the day, I would have to find that bolt by tightening up everything. I can't tell you the number of times I found five or six that I thought was the one he loosened up.
Fire ExtinguisherOf course there are a few things that you do need to either invest in or check every week to make sure that your car is safe. One of these items is a fire extinguisher. If you don't have one, then purchasing one should be a priority. Make sure the bottle's gauge is in the green area and has not fallen into the red. If it has fallen into the red, simply take it to your local parts store and get it recharged, as this is much cheaper than buying a new fire extinguisher. Also, determine that the pin has been installed correctly. The fire extinguisher should be mounted behind the driver's seat (if there is room) and the pull-pin that activates the extinguisher needs to be an easy reach for the driver.
I recommend running a splitter in the line so you can have the extinguisher discharging in the cockpit as well as in the fuel cell area. Also consider running another line to the engine compartment, especially if you run a Chevy. A Chevy's fuel pump is on the right side of the car so you are more susceptible to an engine fire when you hit the wall with the right front. Don't assume it won't happen to you. Ask any driver who has had a fire in the car and he or she will tell you that there is nothing scarier.
It all starts with the driver's...
It all starts with the driver's seat, so make sure that your seat is bolted in correctly and is being inspected race to race for any cracks or breaks. Photo by John Gibson
Safety innovations are at an all-time high, and drivers are surviving accidents they would not have survived 10 years ago. Driver suits and helmets have also experienced innovations and updates. When purchasing a driver suit make sure that you are purchasing one that is not just one layer. A two- or three-layer suit is much safer. They can be a little more expensive, but they are protecting the most important part of the car-the driver. I wear a three-layer suit.
Helmets have come far since the death of Dale Earnhardt. This is another area that you don't want to short change yourself. Helmets can be expensive, but why would you want to try to save money on something that is built to protect your head? Just make sure the helmet you purchase can be fitted with some type of head-and-neck restraint. This device has become a necessity for any driver.
I run a Hans device, but there are others on the market. Find one that is comfortable and one that has tested safe.
Make sure each suspension...
Make sure each suspension bolt is safety wired. Photo by John Gibson
Ask anyone who has ever had...
Ask anyone who has ever had a ball joint break or had the nut back off while racing and they will tell you about the destruction that occurs afterwards. Take an extra five minutes and make sure all of your cotter keys are keeping the nut from backing off. Photo by John Gibson
Your fire extinguisher gauge...
Your fire extinguisher gauge should be in the green. If it isn't, take it out and get it recharged. Photo by John Gibson