Be sure to check out the video at the end of our article: "5 Key Safety Items for your Kid Racer"

There is a young lady who works at Circle Track's main office who grew up at the local dirt track here in Tampa. She now has a young son who absolutely loves short track racing. Four-year-old Landon can routinely be found in the pits helping out under the watchful eye of his mother, Jessica. Landon's dad doesn't race himself but the whole family works on an uncle's Dirt Modified. Obviously, little Landon is destined to climb behind the wheel someday. When he does slip into a fullsized car 10 years or so down the road his parents will have a world of safety options that we can only dream of today.

But what if your kid is getting into racing now? What are your options to keep him or her as safe as you can? With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most important items they'll need. We're going to save car construction, seat mounting and things like that for another article. This month we are going to deal with what they'll need as a first time racer in today's market.

Helmet

There is not a racetrack in the country that will let you compete without a helmet. However, there are some key things about helmets that you must know in order to keep that tikes melon in one piece. First off, the only helmet you should buy is one that carries a Snell SA2010 rating. If it doesn't carry that rating it is not designed for car racing...plain and simple. On a not so recent trip to a local short track, we actually saw a 15 year old sporting a full faced BMX style bicycle helmet as he sat behind the wheel of a Street Stock. When we confronted the parents they saw nothing wrong with it due to their lack of knowledge of the rating systems and testing procedures. A helmet is a helmet they thought. It wasn't their fault, they just didn't know.

So why is SA2010 the standard to look for? First off as we mentioned SA is the identifier for a helmet that has been designed for car racing. It has to pass a series of stringent tests conducted by the Snell Foundation to gain the designation, including but not limited to a flammability test; point impact chin bar test; point impact visor test and more. Other helmets (motorcycle, bike, and more) are not subjected to these tests. They have to pass a different set of tests tailored to the respective sport.

Now if you think about accidents you see on a racetrack...there can be fire and there can be sharp heavy objects flying around at a good rate of speed. The only way to give your driver the best chance of survival when things go wrong is to have the best equipment. You should also note that the SA2010 is the latest rating as the Snell Foundation changed their testing procedures in 2010, making them more difficult to pass than the old SA2005 rating, meaning your SA2010 rated helmets are safer.

Head-and-Neck Restraints

Last year, 12-year-old Tyler Morr died from injuries sustained in a crash at Auburndale Speedway in Florida. He was driving in the Kids Club race. He was not wearing a head-and-neck restraint. Had he been wearing one, he most likely would have survived. Those are sobering words to have to write. But it is something that every racing parent needs to hear.

Everybody who works on this magazine holds the same opinion when it comes to head-and-neck restraints. Wear one or don't race. But when kids are the ones racing Circle Track magazine's official position is that a HNR is the first piece of safety equipment you, as a parent, should purchase. Save up for it before your child ever turns a single lap of practice.

Like all of the safety equipment we're talking about in this article head and neck restraints fall under a set of specifications that are administered by the SFI Foundation (SFI). This non-profit organization was established to administer standards for the quality assurance of specialty performance and racing equipment such as firesuits, seatbelts, etc. The SFI Spec for head and neck restraints is 38.1 and will appear on the actual restraint (along with a date of manufacture) somewhere on the unit. Currently, there are two producers of head and neck restraints; Simpson (HANS and Hybrid brands) and NecksGen. Each of the three brands have passed SFI's testing and carry the SFI 38.1 Spec. So any of them would be a good choice. Do you homework on the features and costs and how each one would fit into your racing budget. Most importantly make sure that the fit is correct for your young racer. There are units available for children as well as adults, but don't just assume that because your child doesn't have a driver's license that he or she need the kids size. Some kids, like the 15-year-old pictured on this page, have shoulders broad enough to use an adult device.

We'll have more valuable information on head and neck restraints in a coming issue, but for now it is on to our number three item.

Firesuit

We know that you know that you need a firesuit to go along with your helmet. But when you're talking about kids in racing there are some additional considerations you need to take into account. First off kids do one things that adults don't. They grow...a lot. With that in mind it can be tempting to buy a cheap firesuit, knowing that he or she could start the season in a small and end it in a medium.

At this point let's refer to the chart above titled TPP vs. Second Degree Burns. SFI's rating designation for firesuits is 3.2A which is followed by a number (1, 5, 10, and so on). The number rating corresponds to the suits TPP value or how well the suit protects you from fire. For our purposes in this discussion the third column in that chart is the critical one. That column shows you how much time your kid will have to get out of the race car if it is on fire and that fire has already come in contact with their suit.

Now before you go out and buy a $2,000 Top Fuel/Funny Car suit, let's go back to what started this commentary. Kids grow and racing is expensive. A good two layer SFI rated suit will run between $300 and $400. Now compare that to a single layer, economy suit for $80. The single layer is much more budget friendly but look at the chart, it yields a much lower time to second-degree burn.

TPP vs. Second-Degree Burns
SFI rating TPP values Time to second-degree burns Typical use
3.2A/1 6 3 seconds Single-layer suit; entry-level
3.2A/5 19 9 seconds Double-layer driving suit
3.2A/10 38 19 seconds Land speed records
3.2A/15 60 30 seconds Top Fuel alcohol drag suit
3.2A/20 80 40 seconds Top Fuel alcohol Funny Car suit