Tire tethers are steel cables used to connect the tires to the actual cars. They are intended to keep the tires from flying off the vehicle in a crash, helping to protect both other drivers on the track and fans in the stands, as seen in this David Ragan incident at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR officials have worked diligently over the years to stay abreast of safety developments. Officials study crashes, like the pictured one involving Elliott Sadler at Pocono Raceway, in order to learn what should be the next step in protecting their drivers. In recent years, enhancements made to the new-model car, as well as additions such as SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers and head-and-neck restraint systems have improved the protection aspect of a crash. Here’s a look at some of NASCAR’s safety enhancements, and how they work in a crash.
In October 2001, NASCAR mandated that all drivers must wear a head-and-neck restraint system. Currently two are approved – the HANS Device and the Hutchens Hybrid device. In addition, in 2007 the sanctioning body mandated that all drivers wear a six-point belt system instead of the previously approved five-point harness.
The greenhouse area, or cockpit, of the car was a key element in the new car's design. The driver was moved further away from the door toward the center of the car and the roof was raised 2½ inches to allow for more clearance in the areas surrounding the driver.
The sides of the car are designed with safety more in mind these days, too. The body panels on the cars are fabricated from 24-gauge/0.0247-inch minimum cold-rolled sheet metal to stand up in those high-speed crashes better. That helped protect Joey Logano (20) and all the drivers involved in this crash at Dover International Speedway.
This steel plating and energy-absorbing material located between the roll cage and the door panels is designed to also help lower the force of a crash on a driver as the panels crush to take the impact. That helped Ryan Newman escape this car uninjured.
A cage of steel tubing inside the body of the car was designed to protect the driver during a crash or a rollover. This has been evidenced by a series of serious crashes at restrictor-plate tracks where cars have flipped, been hit by other cars or slid on the pavement on their roofs and yet the driver has walked away uninjured. For example, Carl Edwards is seen climbing from his car after it flipped into the catchfence at Talladega Superspeedway.
Commonly referred to as soft walls, the system has been installed at all oval tracks and at key areas on road courses. The impact-absorbing wall helps take some of the sheer force of a crash off of the driver by allowing the wall to compact as the car makes contact with it.
Cables are attached to the chassis where the hood connects to the car, keeping the hood on the vehicle in a crash such as this Kurt Busch incident at Daytona International Speedway. While that might make it hard for a driver to continue after impact, it keeps the large piece from flying into the grandstands or another car on the track.
The roof flaps deploy when the car is turned sideways or backwards in a spin, as seen by Sam Hornish Jr.. They aim to keep the car on the ground and have been effective in limited the number of cars going airborne. Still, cars have flipped in recent races at NASCAR’s higher-speed tracks.