Brain injuries started to appear in the period between 1997 and 1999 when we saw several well-known drivers suffer serious brain-related injuries. The problems associated with the stiff chassis were beginning to show on a scale that was definitely noticeable. Then in 1999, teams were allowed to increase the wall thickness in the tubing that is a part of the front of the chassis. This further increased the stiffness of the front ends. It is obvious, with the tragedies we have seen, that today, the excessive amount of g-force transmitted to the drivers' bodies make crashes less survivable.

Many factors need to be addressed when considering the redesign of the cars. As we add structure and components to the cars in order to assist in dissipation of energy on impact, we need to also consider the effects each change has on the way the cars are setup and how those changes will affect the performance of the cars. For example, adding weight to the front of the car affects the weight distribution, which directly affects the handling and the way we set up the cars.

If we decide to raise the framerail on the front of the cars to increase the angles formed by the tubing, we might alter the geometric layout that is so critical for camber control and roll center location. These two effects play a significant role in allowing the front tires to work the way they should. Correct designs for front geometry have evolved over many years and we don't need to destroy all of that work by overreacting.

As compromises to the above, it may be possible to move the engine back a little farther in order to compensate for the increase in weight to the front of the car to offset the effect of the added weight of the crush components.

We could angle the tubing at the front of the car in such a way that the geometry we have carefully designed into the cars remains the same. These are good examples of considerations that must be made during this process of change. Each proposed change must be carefully examined before implementation.

Changes are needed and we don't know exactly how far away we are from the solution to this problem. It is fairly safe to say that the more input the sanctioning bodies get from places like Detroit and other safety industry sources familiar with these kinds of problems, the sooner we can all breathe easier.

A lot of people are curious as to exactly what is wrong with the cars, how difficult it could possibly be to change them and exactly what are some of the proposed changes. Here are some thoughts and a bit of information that might help in understanding this complex predicament.

Stock cars need crush zones, period. Stock cars have traditionally not been designed with distinct crush zones. The crush zones should be built into areas of the car that have a good chance of coming in high-speed contact with the wall or other obstructions. The crush zones should collapse in a controlled way in order to slow the car and extend the time it takes to stop the car.

The way some stock cars collapse (or don't collapse as the case may be) makes it easy to understand why drivers can get hurt. The nose area of the car is supported with minimal structure and will provide little resistance when the car crashes into a concrete wall. As the nose is pushed back, the wall contacts the end of the front clip, or frame of the car.

The front clip, or frame portion of the front end is the part that has become overly stiff over the years. The speed the car is traveling when the actual frame reaches the wall is much the same as before the nose contacted the wall. Therefore the car stops in a very short distance and transmits excessive g-forces to the driver, just like what would happen to a stunt person if we were to take away the air bag in a 10 story fall.