Earnhardt's lap belt was broken

By Motorsport.com staff ROCKINGHAM, N.C (February 23, 2001) - NASCAR Officials announced today that Dale Earnhardt's lap belt was found broken after the crash that killed him near the finish line of the Daytona 500. A medical doctor stated...

By Motorsport.com staff

ROCKINGHAM, N.C (February 23, 2001) - NASCAR Officials announced today that Dale Earnhardt's lap belt was found broken after the crash that killed him near the finish line of the Daytona 500.

A medical doctor stated that Earnhardt, 49, might have survived Sunday's crash if the cloth belt had held. NASCAR president, Mike Helton, said: "A broken left lap seat belt came apart. We don't know how, when or where, yet. We will continue our investigation."

Dr. Steve Bohannon, head of emergency medical services at Daytona International Speedway who tried to see Earnhardt at the scene stated that "Mr. Earnhardt more than likely contacted the steering wheel with his face." Bohannon speculated that with the broken belt, Earnhardt's body could have been thrown forward and to the right, thrusting him into the steering wheel. Earnhardt's chin might have hit the steering wheel, causing the major head injury that killed him on impact. A skull fracture ran from the front to the back of his brain. "If his restraint system - his belts - had held, he would have had a much better chance of survival," he said.

"I do support further neck and head restraints, but I'm not convinced the HANS device would have made a difference in this case," Bohannon said. The device fits around the neck and is attached by strap to the helmet and frame of the car. Earnhardt felt that the HANS device was bulky and uncomfortable.

According to the RCR team owner, Richard Childress, the seat belts were standard and were new when the car was built last November.

NASCAR Technical Director, Gary Nelson, described the belt system as a five-point harness. He further described how the webbing near the lower left buckle, holding the lap belt atop the car frame, came apart.

"All we know conclusively is the belt came apart," Nelson said. "We've never seen it, we've talked to people in the business, and they say they've never seen it in 52 years of NASCAR racing." The death of Dale Earnhardt Sr., a legend in NASCAR and a seven-time Winston Cup champion stunned the racing world. The accident has led to fans, drivers, teams and the racing communities to call for improve safety measures. According to Helton, NASCAR, at this time was not contemplating any safety changes for this weekend's races at the Rockingham North Carolina Speedway.

Helton went on to say that safety and technical experts were still investigating the accident by studying the #3 Chevy and the broken lap belt and restraint system.

NASCAR will pass information on the broken belt to the Winston Cup and Busch Grand National crew chiefs here at Rockingham and to the Craftsman Truck Series crew chiefs for their series race next weekend at Homestead.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Mike Helton