NASCAR Late Model Stock driver Nick Losito takes his safety inside the race car seriously. His car owner, Don, is also his father, and you can bet he takes Nick's safety even more seriously.
So when Nick took a hard hit against the retaining wall in one race and spent the next couple of days "speaking in a high-pitched voice," as Nick puts it, the two began researching different seat and harness combinations to see if they could improve Nick's well being.
A seven-point system requires...
A seven-point system requires extra mounting hardware in the seat. For Losito's system, seat builder Butler Built designed the seat for the harness. Unlike the shoulder and hip straps, which mount to the rollcage, the inner leg straps mount directly to the aluminum seat with extra bracing.
Last season, Nick used a five-point harness system integrated into his aluminum racing seat. Five-point racing belts have been around for decades; they are widely accepted and do a good job of protecting race car drivers. But that doesn't mean the venerable five-point belt system is the only option out there. A five-point belt system utilizes two shoulder straps, two hip straps, and one antisubmarine strap (also known as a crotch strap), which all connect at a single buckle (in the same location on a driver as a belt buckle). Six-point harnesses, which replace the single antisubmarine strap with two inner leg straps, are also gaining popularity because they can help reduce the dreaded "crotch strap up the middle" injury to male drivers.
Another option is the one the Lositos chose. For the '07 season, Nick is testing a seven-point belt system produced by Hooker Harness. A seven-point system utilizes both an antisubmarine strap as well as two inner leg straps, which Hooker Harness calls "dual substraps." The inner leg straps control the pelvis to keep the body's midpoint better locked into the seat, while the antisubmarine strap is still there to keep the driver from sliding out the bottom of the seat in the event of a frontal impact. The combination of the inner leg straps and the antisubmarine strap should lessen the chances of the harness injuring a driver during a wreck.
The inner leg straps are only...
The inner leg straps are only a small component of a comprehensive system that utilizes the seat, the head supports, the harness, and the 'cage system to protect the driver inside a cocoon. Losito also uses leg supports, but they were not yet installed when these photos were taken.
Hooker Harness is a relatively new name in stock car racing, but the company has been around for years, primarily serving aerobatic pilots. "The seven-point system is useful because the dual substraps help to lock the pelvis in place," explains Hooker Harness' Scott McPhillips. "Then your body doesn't have the inertia that lifts it out of the seat. It cannot gather that energy before it hits the rest of the harness and it doesn't shock load the body. Without that little bit of movement, it doesn't give you as hard a hit on your body.
"When properly installed, the dual substraps help do a better job of keeping the driver's body in position, which is its main purpose. But it also helps by taking some of the slack out of the belt system and controlling some of your movement better."
The general idea is that by using extra straps you can do a better job of holding the driver's body inside the seat. During a crash, the energy generated can create lots of inertia for every fraction of an inch the driver's body is allowed to move. Since the human body pivots at the waist, using two straps to lock the pelvis into place better also helps the shoulder straps protect the driver's torso. McPhillips also says that, when positioned perfectly, the dual substraps make the antisubmarine belt redundant. But that "perfect" placement is a little bit different for every driver, so using both straps only offers additional protection.
As this article went to press, the '07 racing season was just getting underway and Nick Losito had yet to take a hard hit with his new belt system in place. We hope he doesn't have to personally find out if this seven-point system offers better protection from a wreck. He is confident he is doing all he can to make racing as safe as it is fun.