Book Review: “CRASH! From Senna to Earnhardt–How the HANS Device Helped Save Racing”

Motor racing has long been viewed as daring and dangerous. What if the odds of surviving a crash could be improved? 

Professional racer Jim Downing asked that question after a particularly hard wreck at Mosport in 1980. Before hitting a concrete wall at speed, Downing’s Mazda RX-7 turned around. He lost consciousness but lived to race another day. 

Other drivers weren’t so lucky, as hard, nose-first impacts had become a deadly reality due to basal skull fractures. Downing decided to look for a solution, and his partner was brother-in-law Dr. Bob Hubbard. What they needed, the pair realized, was a way to keep a driver’s head from snapping forward during an impact. The idea for a head-and-neck restraint–the now-popular piece of safety gear known as the HANS Device–started to take shape: mockups followed by prototypes, testing and, slowly, acceptance. 

During preseason testing for the 2001 NASCAR season, Hubbard was in Daytona working with a few drivers. Dale Earnhardt had zero interest in the HANS Device. He died just a few weeks later due to a basal skull fracture. Immediately the HANS Device became front-page news. “CRASH!” details the HANS Device’s history, from impetus to now-ubiquitous piece of motorsports equipment.

CRASH! From Senna to Earnhardt–How the HANS Device Helped Save Racing”
182 pages

Buy This Book Here

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