Almost anyone familiar with stock car racing can point to Dale Earnhardt Sr's tragic death in the closing laps of the 2001 Daytona 500 as the point when safety technology for drivers took a dramatic upward spike. Better containment seats, soft walls, head-and-neck restraints, and many other safety measures are now a common sight at racetracks across the country because of the heightened awareness of the dangers drivers are subjected to as they compete in our favorite sport.

At first, head-and-neck restraints were limited to the HANS and Hutchens devices. There was still much to be learned when it comes to the best way of protecting a driver from a basilar skull fracture in the event of a frontal impact while still allowing enough range of movement. This, of course, is necessary so that the driver can still pilot the race car properly without becoming a danger to himself or others.

As testing data accumulated and more and more sanctioning bodies and racetracks began requiring a certified head-and-neck restraint, more options became available on the market. Some worked better than others, but at least there are more options available so that racers can find the best setup that fits their frame, their race car, and their budget.

One of the newest head-and-neck restraint systems available is the NecksGen, and it has definitely caught our eye. The NecksGen is made in the USA from lightweight carbon-fiber composite material and is SFI 38.1 certified and tested, which is the current highest standard for competitive head-and-neck restraint systems.

The NecksGen uses the familiar collar system that rests between the driver's shoulders and upper restraint straps. The helmet is restrained with straps tied to the upper section of the collar so that in the event of a frontal impact the helmet (and driver's head) can't move too far forward, and the force of restraining the head is transferred through the collar into the driver's shoulders and chest (while avoiding the more fragile collar bones).

So far we're talking fairly standard operating procedure for most head-and-neck restraint systems, but one of the things that makes the NecksGen different is its adjustability. Just like the rest of society, race car drivers come in all shapes and sizes, so it is hard to make one restraint system fit everyone perfectly. The NecksGen is available in three sizes. The Large fits most adults taller than five-and-a-half feet tall. The Medium fits drivers between 5' and 5' 6" and over 100 pounds. Compared to the Large, the Medium is 1-inch narrower to fit smaller frames. And finally, there's a Youth version designed for developing drivers between 7 and 16 years old that are under 5 feet and 100 pounds. Compared to the Large, the Youth model is 1 inch narrower both across the neck and at each shoulder platform to better accommodate 2-inch-wide seatbelts.

Jay Fogleman is a longtime racer who has made a career racing asphalt tracks across the Eastern United States. He's made over a dozen starts in NASCAR's Nationwide Series but had his most success in the ultra-competitive Super Late Model class. Fogelman has been coaching his 13-year-old son, Tate, who recently moved up from Bandoleros to full-size race cars.

"As a racer I'll admit to sometimes putting performance over my own safety," Fogelman says, "but when Tate decided he wanted to go racing my priorities completely change as a parent. So even if the track didn't require it, I knew he would be using the best safety equipment we could get, including a head restraint.

"Tate's using a NecksGen and I really like it," he adds. "What's neat about it is its adjustability. Tate is really slim, and some of them we've tried leave a large gap where they are curved to fit a grown man's chest. Being able to adjust the brace so that it sits flat against his chest just seems like it will transfer the force more evenly, plus it's also more comfortable. And as he grows, we can continue to adjust the restraint so that it always fits him right."

Fogleman also recommends fitting young drivers with a head-and-neck restraint that's similar to what they will use when they are grown. He admits that when he first began wearing a head-and-neck restraint he was already a veteran driver and getting comfortable wearing the additional safety equipment took some time. "But kids seem to take to it right away because they aren't used to anything else. Then they develop the habits, not only wearing a head restraint but also getting into and out of the race car, so that it becomes second nature to them."