Hut Stricklin impressed with HANS Device

 by Frank Ryan
March 7, 2001

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If there has been any debate to the functionality and merits of the HANS device, one need to look no further than this past weekends race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon not only won his 53rd Winston Cup event, but he won it wearing the HANS Device, marking the first time the HANS has been worn into Victory Lane in Winston Cup. Dale Jarrett, who finished second to Gordon, also wore the HANS Device for the race.
This was the first event that Gordon has worn the HANS, and after testing it earlier in the week, most of the bugs seem to have been worked out. Recognizing that the HANS is like a piece of clothing, one size does not fit all, but can be tailored to fit all. Gordon has more work to do with the final fit of the HANS, but after witnessing the recent casualties in NASCAR, it is a small price to pay for safety.

"It rubs on my collarbones," Gordon commented after winning the UAW- Daimler Chrysler 400, "I want to find a way to soften that. If that's what I have to give up to be safer, I'm fine with that."

But with the question of whether or not a driver can wear the HANS and be competitive being answered with a resounding "Yes", were any of the drivers who were wearing the HANS involved in any incidents on Sunday, and how did they fare?

Hut Stricklin now knows just how good the HANS Device is.  Hopefully, his head will never hit his steering wheel again.

Most notably, safety proponent Jeff Burton crashed on the second lap of the event while wearing the HANS, but with most of the damage being sheet metal, Burton returned to the event, eventually finishing in 39th place. But not all of the crashes were minor, as witnessed by Hut Stricklin violent crash on lap 160. Also wearing the HANS, Stricklin crashed his Hills Brothers Ford hard into the outside wall after losing a tire in turn 4. After the crash, Stricklin was happy he had been wearing the HANS as the accident came quite by surprise.

Stricklin recounted the accident and his experience with the HANS, "I don't know if I ran over and cut something or what," he said, "but it just blew. That's the first time I really got to check out my HANS device and I was pretty impressed by it. I hated to have to have a wreck to check it out, but I was pretty impressed. I went down into three and the tire let go. I knew I was going to hit the fence pretty hard and you just try to hold on the best you can. Any other time an impact like that you would feel your back and neck stretch, but I tell you, I'm impressed. That's a pretty big deal. Sometimes when you hit it feels like your head goes out the windshield and comes back, but I just hit the inside of my helmet pretty hard. That's all padded, so I really didn't hurt anything. I tell you, I'm really impressed."

Needless to say, Stricklin was impressedů

What do these drivers have in common, of course the obvious answer is that they were wearing the HANS, but more importantly, they all "chose" to wear the HANS. They didn't complain about the product, make excuses, or find reasons not to wear it, to steal a phrase from Nike "they just did it". This is good news for NASCAR, for the positive actions and attitudes expressed by these drivers to test and use the HANS in under racing conditions may ultimately prevent NASCAR from losing another driver before they choose to make their Victory Tour.

The author can be contacted at frankr@autoracing1.com

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