The use of head and neck restraints since that time has become almost the norm among drivers. We have, for the most part, eliminated basal skull injuries among those drivers who religiously wear the devices.

I witnessed a crash in 2006, where I am certain there would have been serious injury or death, in a Late Model practice. It was at the high-banked and fast I-70 Speedway during an ASA Late Model Series practice session. A driver blew a right front tire and impacted the wall with the front of the car. He hit so hard, he was knocked out. The car rebounded off the wall and was sitting in the middle of the track, facing traffic. Another car, going very fast, hit him head on again. This second impact was as bad, or worse, than the first.

His helmet was crushed at the inside front, leading experts who examined it to speculate that the combined impacts were well in the fatal range. The driver was wearing a Hans device and survived to race again. It is situations like these that drive home the argument that we need these kinds of safety equipment every time we get into a racecar.

he article previously mentioned suggested that we might need soft cars instead of soft walls and told how the construction of stock cars has evolved over the years. Many stock cars are not able to crush sufficiently in order to absorb the impacts with concrete walls. As a direct result of that story, a lot of attention has been directed toward understanding the problems associated with the construction of chassis.

The problem with stiff cars wasn't just a "big league" problem, it had become an industry-wide stock car racing problem. In certain years, too many short track drivers lost their lives from either basal skull fractures or massive head injuries, as described in the news accounts of those events.

The injuries seem to point toward chassis that were too stiff. These horrible losses are not acceptable and tell us clearly that the whole of the industry needs to take a good look at how the cars are constructed and the car builders and teams need to make changes where necessary.

The stiffness associated with the construction of the cars and trucks in all stock car divisions, tended to evolve over a period of more than 15 years. In mid-1980s, major-league stock car teams were allowed the use of a rear suspension system called the "Truck Arm" system. It is essentially a copy of a mid-60s Chevrolet C-10 pickup truck rear suspension. It was strong, it had some good performance characteristics, but this system basically upset the balance of the racecars so that the setups were harder to develop and driving the cars was more difficult than even some of the older designs.

In order for a stock car to handle correctly through the turns, it must have a balanced setup. We know now, due to technological advancements, that the term "balanced" means that both ends of the car will desire to do the same thing in the turns at high speeds. The setup in a stock car is correct when both ends are made to want to do the same thing.

Because stock cars were becoming more difficult to balance, the culprit was thought to be chassis flexing, or compliance as referred to by some of the top Cup engineers of that period. In order to "fix" the problem, designers of the chassis started to stiffen the cars from the right front to the left rear. This really didn't help much, but it did get out of hand. The real culprit was the basic design of the suspension systems, but that escaped most of the engineers.

From approximately 1995 on, the teams and car builders have continued to make changes to reduce the amount of flex in the chassis. The primary part of the cars that presented the biggest flex problems was the right front corner. As time went on, the right front corner became stiffer. The problem we are faced with is that in many cases, the first part of the car to contact the concrete wall is the right front of the car.