Dodge drivers discuss HANS, pay tribute to Earnhardt

Five Dodge drivers have been fitted with HANS devices, including Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, John Andretti, Kyle Petty and Dave Blaney. These five drivers are not using the HANS device on a regular basis, but Petty wore it in the Daytona 500....

Five Dodge drivers have been fitted with HANS devices, including Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, John Andretti, Kyle Petty and Dave Blaney. These five drivers are not using the HANS device on a regular basis, but Petty wore it in the Daytona 500. Dodge drivers talk about the HANS and other safety devices heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Winston Cup race at Rockingham. They also pay tribute to seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We're working on it (HANS) and trying to get it incorporated into our system, but you've got to change a lot of stuff to accommodate it. You have to totally reconfigure the seat. You just can't put it on and wear it. It isn't that simple. I tested with it at Talladega just about all day, and once you get used to it, it isn't all that bad. Some people say it's uncomfortable, but they're just using that as an excuse. We just haven't had time to get it incorporated into the car. It'll take several weeks to get it right. It's not like a helmet. You can't just throw it on and jump in the car. "I don't know if it's what we need now or not. I have more questions than answers right now. It sure ain't going to be the same out there without Dale Earnhardt. It's going to be hard to go to the track, and it's going to be hard to accept that Earnhardt isn't there. We all miss Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Tony Roper, too. We've got to take everything that's happened, analyze it and hope that it can help us. "Earnhardt was the highest profile guy in the sport, but we should look at his death no differently just because he was so well known. I don't know how we can look at this and not make some changes. Something's got to be done, but I don't have the answer. It was just a bad deal. What happened to the 3 at Daytona overshadows everything else that happened down there. All it takes is that one time, that one hit. "We're going to try to have the HANS incorporated by Rockingham. We need all the help we can get right now with safety issues, and I think the HANS is definitely something we need to look at."

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I'm going to look at it (HANS) and try it. But just looking at it and talking to other guys, driving a race car is more than looking straight ahead. You've got to look out your left, over your right shoulder and kind of be award of what's going on around you. From what I've seen of the device, you're really restricted to just straight look-ahead driving. I've got a spotter. I've had a spotter for years. I always double check. If a spotter says clear, I'm trying to look in the mirror, look over my shoulder and make sure I'm clear. I've caught myself a few times when I've double checked and sure enough somebody is up on your right rear quarterpanel. If I'd moved, it would have turned me head on into the wall. With that device, you'd really have to put a lot of judgment into what the spotter says. It's something I'll look at, I think all drivers will start now. We'll look and see how it plays out. "I've looked at it, but me and another driver talked about it. Do you want to save your neck or do you want to burn up in the car and can't get out? It's a two-sided coin. Me personally, I wear a strap that goes around your shoulder and hooks to your helmet. I don't think Dale had that on Sunday. In speedway races, you've really got to look behind you, to your sides and it may restrict his vision. I wear the strap, No. 1, on the short tracks where it really pulls your neck a lot, but No. 2, I wear it for safety. "If you hit, it kind of helps hold your head back on your shoulders. Simpson makes it. You just slide your arm through it, and it goes around your shoulder and hooks to a little clip on the side of your helmet. I'd say 95 percent of your drivers wear it. I'd say about all of them would have to wear it for Dover and Bristol and the high-speed places where it really works on your neck muscles. "It's just a freak deal here. Within a year, we've lost three drivers. We went along forever and nobody hardly broke a finger nail. All of a sudden, things are happening. Whether it's the HANS device or air bags in the car or something, we've got to figure out something to make it better."

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It's more difficult for taller drivers to use the HANS. It's really all about how you position your seat. I've tried it and I can't use the HANS. We used another device made by one of our associate sponsors, Autolive. It's one of the leading manufacturers of safety equipment, and they're working hard with NASCAR. It's similar to the HANS, but taller drivers can use it. I wore it Sunday in the Daytona 500 and was comfortable with it. It hooks into a five-point head restraint. I tested it, and it cut G-forces dramatically. It cuts the distance of head travel in half. I tested it in Happy Hour at Daytona, and I really liked what I saw, so I wore it in the race. "The sport suffered a tremendous loss, and I don't look at ever replacing Dale Earnhardt. He was one of a kind. I send my heart felt thoughts and prayers to his family. I feel really bad for them, and I wish there was something I could do. Congratulations to Michael Waltrip for winning the race, and Dale Jr. did a tremendous job, too, but everything was overshadowed by the death of Dale Earnhardt. "We had a good Daytona. We qualified second and finished 10th. That was my best finish ever in Winston Cup, but it's all trivial at this point. It makes you realize how insignificant some things really are." WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Nobody knows if the HANS is the answer right now or not. It might help sometimes, but the doctor said he didn't know if it would have helped Dale. Dale's wreck didn't look that bad, but a lot of them that don't look bad are bad. The crash I was involved in looked a lot more violent, but there was a lot of energy being absorbed. Dale's car went almost straight on into the wall, and there was nothing else to absorb all that energy. "We had an awesome car at Daytona, and for the first time, I learned what you've got to have to lead the race. We've had good top-five or top-10 cars there, but we've never had one capable of leading the race for a long period of time like we did this time. "We were real happy with the car. The crew did a great job with it, the motor was great and the team made some great calls. I think we had a good shot to win it. We led the most laps, and it was a shame we couldn't be there at the end to have a shot to win it for Bill Davis. But the way everyone was bunched up, it was just a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. It was just a matter of where and when."

DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've got a HANS and I've had one on a little bit, but it's not real comfortable. We're working on it. It's a little cumbersome. It needs to be fixed so it can be pulled off easier so it works the same way every time. We're working on it right now. I don't know if we'll have it ready by Rockingham, but we're not going to use it until we're completely happy with it." -Dodge Motorsports

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About this article
Series Automotive , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Michael Waltrip , Adam Petty , Kyle Petty , Casey Atwood , Dave Blaney