Sprint Car racing may be one of the more radical forms of motorsports out there. Let's face it, there's a better chance of a Sprint Car driver getting upside down than in any other form of four-wheeled racing. So it stands to reason that drivers who race Sprint Cars take their safety seriously. More than once we've heard drivers in other forms of racing say, "Oh sure, you bet I'd wear a HANS if I raced a Sprint Car," or, "Those Sprint Car racers need that (insert your favorite safety accessory here)." But the fact is, the rest of us could take some cues from the safety initiatives that Sprint Car racers employ.
We've spent many pages of Circle Track preaching about the need to take proper safety precautions when you get in a racecar. Do you wear a head-and-neck restraint? What's the SFI rating of your firesuit? How are you attaching your window net to your rollcage? While all of these questions have been posed in the pages of this magazine, we thought we'd take a different approach this month. We sat down to talk safety with a 16-year-old California Sprint Car racer. Her name? Alissa Geving. That's right, our chosen subject for this interview is a girl who attends Catholic school by day and works on not one but two Sprint Cars (a 360 and a 410) at night.
Here's some background for you. Alissa's father, Gary Geving, is a well-known Northern California Sprint Car racer who slung mud for 14 years before getting out of the driver seat to focus on his daughter's racing career. As do many short-track racers, the Gevings race as a family. From the time she was born, Alissa was around Sprint Cars. Cradle in the pits? You bet. So it was inevitable that she would someday end up behind the wheel. She got her first taste of competition behind the wheel of an Outlaw cart, four years ago at the tender age of 12. "It was the super beginners class," Alissa says. "My dad was concerned about safety and wanted to make sure I started out slow."
Alissa's arsenal of safety...
Alissa's arsenal of safety equipment includes a custom-made, multilayer firesuit, a top-of-the-line helmet, fire-retardant gloves, shoes, socks, and Carbon X underwear, all of which is SFI-rated.
Over the next three seasons, Alissa moved up into bigger and faster karts until 2007. Gary was able to put together a deal that would allow his then-15-year-old daughter to run Sprint Cars at their home track of Petaluma Speedway, the fast 3/8-mile dirt oval in the town of the same name. It was time for Alissa to follow in dad's footsteps and try her hand at Sprint Car racing.
Gary didn't skimp on his daughter's equipment, making sure she had the best of everything, which is interesting considering the way he raced. "I don't think he was that safety conscious," Alissa says. "When he raced, a lot of the equipment we have today wasn't available, so I don't think he ever really thought about it."
While Dad may not have thought about safety then, Alissa sure thinks about it now. We asked her to list off her top five most important safety items, other than obvious things like helmets and firesuits. These are things she would never get into the car without. Here they are, listed in order of importance.
1. Head and Neck Restraint Alissa's chosen restraint is a HANS Device, and it's lucky she has one. Last season she rolled her Sprint Car and says the HANS helped save her neck in that accident. "A lot of kids I race with wear one, but not many of the older people do," she says. "Maybe it's because it's a new piece of safety equipment, but all my friends have one. I've been racing most of my career with one, so it's like a habit. I wish everybody wore one."
Alissa even wears her HANS during mudpacking, "just because things can go wrong and I don't want to risk it. Hey, throttles stick, and if you're unprotected that could be the end. It takes 10 seconds to put one on; there's no point not to."
2. ARM Restraints For Sprint Car racers, arm restraints are almost a necessity, and at some tracks they're even part of the rules. However, there is no reason not to wear them. On her journey upside down, Alissa's restraints kept her arms inside the car and safe from getting caught in between the car and the ground.
This sequence of photos shows...
This sequence of photos shows the beginning, middle, and end result of a flip by California Sprint Car racer Alissa Geving. She walked away thanks to good safety equipment.
Note the arm restraints that...
Note the arm restraints that Alissa uses. The big, wide straps provide a larger area to dissipate the forces of a violent rollover.
Racing and safety is a family...
Racing and safety is a family affair with the Gevings. That's Dad, Gary, in the background in the shorts and Mom, Melissa, cleaning the car.