Motorsport.com -- In Charlotte, NC on Monday, November 12, NASCAR spokesperson stated that due to safety reason, they are urging [not mandating] team crewmen to wear helmets on pit road. The request comes after the pit lane accident at Homestead-Miami Speedway where several of Ricky Rudd's crew members and one NASCAR official was hit by Ward Burton's car. According to Jim Hunter, Vice President for NASCAR communications, " "Helmets are optional now, but we're taking a hard look at either mandating them or strongly recommending them."
NASCAR is reacting quicker to safety related items due to the scruitneering that has been done by media, fans and the teams. NASCAR's safety record has been in a "slump with a downward spiral" for several years. A lot of the changes and their reaction have come as a result of the deaths of several drivers; especially Dale Earnhardt Sr.
On Sunday, at Homestead, Bobby Burrell was thrown head first into the pit lane wall; he was not wearing a helmet. Currently he is in serious but stable condition with head injuries at the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Only a few teams in NASCAR have worn helmets. In 1999, Mark Martin's team elected to remove their helmets stating that the helmets due to discomfort and slowing down their ability to do their jobs. The Cal Wells' PPI Motorsports team has required helmets for the crewmen who go over the wall. Cal Wells came over to NASCAR from CART where it is mandatory for teams to wear helmets. Nick Harver, #32 team manager, stated "They're in peril out there. It's kind of like going out and playing with traffic on the freeway if you think about it."
"We're really confident the helmets aren't hurting our performance, which is one of the big concerns for other teams. They're really worried it will slow them down," continued Harvey. "You need all the protection you can get out there."
During the post-race conference at Homestead, Jeff Gordon commented that he felt his crew should wear helmets and was "going to talk to them about it."
"We have an opportunity to make our sport safer, our pit crew guys will now all have helmets, said Robert Yates with a statement that the crew will have helmets on for the Altanta race. "Hopefully we've learned something from this accident that can make things better. We also need to keep looking at other preventative measures to make things better."
Michael Waltrip, driver for the DEI team and winner of the Daytona 500, has already ordered helmets for 2002 for the crew. Waltrip was one of the first drivers to order a head restraint system after the death of team owner, Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Last month, NASCAR began requiring head restraints for the three major series: Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck.
In 2002, NASCAR will place "black boxes" inside the cars for safety research.