High-quality safety equipment...
High-quality safety equipment kept racer Scott Spicer from serious injury in this fiery crash. Courtesy of Scott Spicer
Long sleeve or short sleeve, turtle neck or crew neck, there are a number of choices when looking for fire-retardant underwear. Yeah, we know long-sleeve Nomex can get pretty toasty on a hot summer night, but you'll be safer. Guys wearing three-layer suits can get away without the Nomex sublayer (not that we would recommend it), but if you're wearing a single-layer suit you shouldn't even think about getting in the race car without fire-retardant underwear.
Figure somewhere around $90 for a top and another $90 for bottoms.
Here's a tip from safety guru and owner of Impact Racing, Bill Simpson: "If your budget doesn't allow you to spend money on fire-retardant underwear, then at least put a sweatshirt, a T-shirt, or something on under your firesuit. At least it's another layer."
Simpson's point is to give yourself every chance to minimize the damage in a fire. Sure, a T-shirt won't have the same effect as 100 percent Pyron(r) carbon fabric undies, but it's better than bare skin.
Depending upon the brand, fire-resistant socks cost between $15 and $30. That's cheaper than a dinner for four at Applebee's. For that price, why not give yourself an extra layer of protection beneath your racing shoes? Look for fire-resistant socks that provide comfort and good moisture wicking properties. Sweaty feet are hot feet, and believe it or not, that condition impacts the pedal feel we previously discussed.
Here's a little trick: buy two pairs of socks. That way, you will always have a fresh pair during those long race weekends. Any good Boy Scout knows that clean socks and underwear will keep you drier, warmer, or cooler in a wide variety of weather conditions.
We love 'em. Balaclavas, which are also called head socks, are a great way to give yourself added protection around your noggin. Most are knitted from Nomex, and like socks or underwear, it is important to buy quality. A poorly engineered balaclava can make you very hot on a Saturday night in July. So check with the manufacturer as to the type of fabric used for the head sock. For example, Impact Racing offers a proprietary brand of knit fabric in its underwear and balaclavas called ImpactMAX(r). This fabric is specially designed to wick away moisture while retaining its thermal properties.
When looking for a balaclava, choose one with a long bottom section that covers your neck down to your shoulders. Had Dale Jr. been wearing one of these when he wrecked that Corvette in 2004, he would not have burned his neck. A good balaclava costs about $40 to $50.
Dale Jr. could have opted for a helmet skirt instead of a balaclava and escaped burning his neck. We see very few short trackers wearing these, as they are more popular within the drag racing fraternity. But they're a great idea. In reality, wearing a balaclava and a helmet skirt is probably overkill for the Saturday night racer, but you can never be too careful when it comes to fire safety. You should wear at least one or the other.
Helmet skirts, like head socks, are usually woven from Nomex or Carbon-X and will run you about 70 bucks.
Spicer walked away without any burns because he made the right choice when it came to safety equipment. When he e-mailed pictures from his wreck, he included the following note. So take some advice from a fellow racer.