ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — Two drivers experimented with alternative safety gear Monday at North Carolina Speedway.
The HANS device, short for Head and Neck Support, has not been totally accepted, many drivers finding the U-shaped device too bulky and restrictive.
Bobby Hutchens, an engineer at Richard Childress Racing, the team Dale Earnhardt drove for when he was killed last week in the Daytona 500, developed an alternative restraint system for drivers Mike Skinner and Kevin Harvick.
Bobby Labonte got Hutchens to give him one. He wore it in the race, as did Elliott Sadler.
The HANS device uses a neck brace and tethers to the helmet to hold the head in position upon impact. Hutchens' device uses the car's seat belts to hold the head and neck in place, the belts strapping around a driver's waist and chest, then looping up the back and hooking onto the helmet.
"When you hit a wall in one of these race cars, the first thing your body does is go down in the seat," Sadler said. "What this lap belt does, if you try to go down, it tightens up on the lap belt and pulls your head back. So there's no possible way your head can move forward."