When the forwarded email came across the inbox, the first line simply said, “We did it!” The email was originally a news release from Irwindale Speedway which Bob Bolles forwarded to me with that little intro.
The “it” that we did was to beat the head and neck restraint drum enough that another track has mandated them. Now, we are not ego-centric enough to think that we 100 percent alone forced these changes but our sometimes incessant preaching about these safety devices has, we think, had a positive influence on racers and tracks. At the very least it has brought the subject to the forefront of safety discussions.
In Irwindale’s case its release read, in part, “We are updating our track requirements to follow the 2013 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rule book. Head-and-neck restraint devices are now mandatory in all racing divisions that compete on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile track.”
I applaud NASCAR and Irwindale for moving down this path. As we have seen in the past year, more and more tracks and sanctions are mandating H-n-Rs and that’s a good thing, but one item of interest that appeared in the release caught my eye. Irwindale will help any registered driver purchase one of those devices by offering a $50 discount/credit toward its purchase.
One commonly heard argument against an H-n-R is that they are too expensive. So to see a track taking the initiative to offer a discount program is refreshing. But what about taking it a step further? A track could offer an interest free pay-as-you-go program for any licensed driver who agrees to compete for the whole season. A number of head-and-neck restraints on the market today hover around $600. If the track races 20 times per season, it could charge the racer an extra $30 per week and allow them to use the device all season. Three things happen in this scenario: the track is a hero to the racer because it is giving them a mechanism to afford a pricey, albeit critical, safety component; the racer is safer because he/she now has an important piece of safety equipment; and finally, the impact on the racer’s budget is minimized because it’s spread out over time. Now, if that shock breaks there is still some money in the bank, because you only spent $30 and not $600 all in one shot. In order to create positive change sometimes it is necessary to get a little creative.
Bolles, Epple, and I believe that it’s our responsibility to not just report on things happening in the industry but to help positively shape the short track landscape for the future. We see ourselves not just as journalists but advocates and champions for the betterment of our sport.
To that end we travel the country, build and race project cars, and report on everything we do to you, sugar coating nothing so that you can learn both from our successes and our mistakes. You can imagine that we gather tons of data, see many different things and learn a lot from all difference areas of the country. Fortunately, we often get invited to speak at various functions, seminars and events.
For example, by the time you read this I will have attended the Stock Car Tech and Promoters Workshop at Five Star Race Car Bodies. The event is in its third year and caters specifically to Tech Officials and Track Owners from around the country. I had the opportunity to speak at it and I bet you can guess one topic I discussed. If you said head-and-neck restraints you’re right. Of course, there were other things discussed, but it’s getting to the point now that talk of H-n-Rs is commonplace and they are becoming, albeit still slowly in some circles, regarded as necessary a safety item as a helmet or firesuit.
I’ll have a full report on the seminar in an upcoming issue, but in the meantime enjoy this issue of Circle Track and until next month, go fast and turn left.