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.

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.

After the car has been set up and the caster and camber is set, take some time and tighten every nut and bolt that makes up the front suspension. This will not only ensure that everything is tight, but it will help keep your setup the same from the beginning of the race til the end. Also make sure to use safety wire on the bolts and nuts that make up the front suspension. Doing this will make sure no nut can back off during a race. It's not a bad practice to go ahead and start doing the same for all of your shock nuts and bolts as well.

Locknuts are a must-have item for parts on the car where failure could lead directly to a crash. This includes shock mounts, track bar bolts, truck arm bolts, and truck arm U-bolts. When a bolt breaks on one of these parts, the car's handling will change so drastically that you'll likely end up in the wall. If the bolt threads into something where you can't get a locknut on the bolt, then use a thread adhesive to help keep the bolts secure.

From week to week you should crawl underneath the car and make sure that there are no leaks in your exhaust. Any type of leak can not only rob the engine of horsepower, but it can also affect the driver's ability to put the car in the winner's circle. This past year at Motor Mile Speedway in virginia, I had an exhaust leak that I was unaware of until after the race. I was only 100 laps into a 250-lap race when I was starting to get extremely winded. It turned out that the carbon monoxide I was breathing from an exhaust leak in front of the cockpit was having a huge effect on my driving ability.

J-B Weld offers a quick fix for an exhaust leak. This is a temporary fix, so do not make the mistake of continuing to use it on the exhaust from race to race.

The upper and lower control arms are hooked to the spindle by two ball joints. These allow the spindle to safely travel up and down at a consistent rate. You must make sure that you have a cotter key in the ball joint that will keep the ball joint nut from backing off.

The other thing you can do to ensure that the ball joints do not break loose is to take a simple welder and tac-weld the ball joint to the upper control arm. Make sure that you weld it in a way that will not effect the travel that the car experiences. This is an old Cup trick that is still used.

Before you blast me for being too obvious, please hear me out-the positioning of your seat belts ensures your safety. The lap belt shouldn't be above your belly button. I always run mine where it sits directly on my belt buckle. Also invest in a decent seat belt harness. The standard four-link belt is not a bad choice, but I recommend a five- or six-link belt.

You must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The fact is that safety is often overlooked because of negligence, which is completely unacceptable! This safety component is not just for the elaborate nASCAR teams. The reason those cars are so safe is because of rules being set in place to provide the driver with the safest racing experience possible. During the course of this season take half a day and verify that your car is as safe as it can be. Do it not only for yourself or your driver, but also for the safety of your competitors.

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