There is a Time to Give Credit When Credit is Due
As most of you know, when I see a subject or a move by a sanctioning body that just doesn't make sense I am the first one to speak out. That was the main part of my Dead-On column last month. The NHRA had handed out the 2008 rulebook and only a few weeks later some “rule revisions” were announced on their website. Personally, I would never have known until I got rejected in tech as I do not look in the “Rule Revisions” section on safety rules on a regular basis. NHRA needs to FIX this type of problem. When they make a change that can affect so many members, it needs to be an “announcement” not hidden in some “Rules Revisions” page.
The rule change I wrote about last month only affected Advance ET racers. I have not read other changes as they will not affect my racing, but you need to go to NHRA.com and check it out.
The other rule change they made, and this one is flat out foolish to me, is the one that says the following. “Drivers of all open-bodied cars who do not use an SFI 3.3 neck collar must use an SFI 3.3 head sock or skirted helmet.”
Seems harmless, but here is the real deal. If you have chosen to actually protect your head and neck by using a HANS, R3, or Hutchens Hybrid and spending the $800 to $1,000 to do so, now they will require you to put a foam padded neck collar over it! WHAT? They are kidding, right?
How about the helmet skirt? Ever worn one of them in a bracket race in 100 degree heat in July? Where is all the fire coming from that they are worried about? Have you ever seen a dragster on fire? In my car I start out with about 2 ½ gallons of methanol in the tank. By the time I drive to staging and keep the engine warm I probably have just over 2 gallons in the tank. Do the burnout, make the run and I get back with about ½ a gallon left in the tank. If I crashed at the finish line I would have probably ¾ of a gallon in the tank. At 160 mph that amount would be spread out so far it would not be the fire that injured me.
Literally, it is probably more dangerous to have my head overheated and sweat running into my eyes from the lack of ventilation caused by the helmet sock than any fire issues.
Let’s look at this for a few minutes. The fabric-covered foam neck collars (let’s call them what they really are- a helmet support in case you fall asleep in the car you won’t bump your head) will now have to be put on over the actual head and neck restraint. This will make the release tethers non-functional or difficult to release. It will change how the head and neck restraint works, and the neck collar has zero effectiveness in a collision.
Safety Solutions and HANS have all tested the neck collars in independent lab tests. The results are scary. I will never wear one again; the tests show you are safer without a neck collar than you are with one! I am not going to restrict the usefulness of my R3; it is the safest thing I can use. I will probably take the foam out of my $25 neck collar (helmet support) and tape it to my helmet with SFI tag facing out. That way I am wearing it, it has the tag, and I have not put myself into a more dangerous position.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Evidently, the racers responded and NHRA listened. I have to give credit where credit is due. In this case I commend NHRA for making a change to the unfair rules. I also think implementing a Sportsman Advisory Council for each Division is a good step towards preventing rules like that from being written again. I was checking the Rule Revisions on the NHRA website the other day and when I got to the part about the new firesuits I was surprised; they had lines through them, to me that meant they have been removed. That saves me $1200! Thanks, NHRA! If it is about safety, then the gas-powered guys should have been part of the rule as well. The real truth is the open wheel cars are not the ones with 5 to 12 gallon fuel tanks; that would be the door cars.
The problem is this: Now that they made another “Rule Revision,” why didn’t NHRA put the announcement on their website? Make it a feature. This little Rule Revision probably caused racers to rush out and spend $50,000 to $100,000 with the safety equipment manufacturers, maybe more. NHRA should stand up, face the music and, before any more money is wasted, let the racers that this rule affects know what the newest rules are. The sanctioning body is an extension of and supported by its members. NHRA is getting a little too independent on how much its seemingly minor rule changes cost us, its members.
Now the other problem is, what about the guys who dropped $1200 to make sure they were legal and now they don't need that expensive firesuit? I hope there weren't very many racers who did that. If there were a lot of guys who did just that, I think it is a shame and a waste of hard earned money.
Just trying to keep you up to speed. Hope your early season racing goes well and the new Sportsman Advisory Council actually gets to have input into rules meetings. Go to your NHRA Division website to see who your Advisory Representatives are and let them know what you are expecting from them. They didn’t get drafted, they volunteered.