NASCAR safety pioneer Dr. John Melvin passes away

The HANS device is one of the many safety innovations pushed by Dr. John Melvin in his time working with NASCAR and its drivers. 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

Dr. John Melvin, who served as a safety consultant for NASCAR over the past 13 years, passed away on Thursday. 

Most NASCAR fans might not know his name, but in the NASCAR community Dr. Melvin’s work was paramount in the field of driver safety. 

A former University of Michigan professor and senior research engineer with General Motors, Dr. Melvin became a paid safety consultant for NASCAR, serving as the Technical Consultant to NASCAR for Racecar Safety.

In this role, Dr. Melvin worked on safety innovations such as the head-and-neck restraints, seat construction, seat belts and SAFER barriers. Dr. Melvin was also the first to develop a black box for racecars in 1991 as part of the GM Racing Safety Program.

"NASCAR and the entire motorsports industry lost a giant on Thursday with the passing of Dr. John Melvin. Dr. Melvin was a pioneer in the field of driver safety, particularly in the area of driver restraint systems," NASCAR president Mike Helton said in a statement. "His many contributions as a safety consultant to NASCAR for more than 13 years forever changed the sport. We lost a colleague, and a friend.

"NASCAR extends its condolences to Dr. Melvin’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed by the entire racing community."

Former Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski took to his personal Twitter account Friday afternoon to express his condolences and explain Dr. Melvin’s impact. 

Keselowski wasn’t the only member of the NASCAR community to come out offer their condolences on Twitter, though.