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You are probably wondering how an entire column can be about enforcing safety rules and how can it be that important in a Sportsman oriented column, right?
I thought the same thing until a couple weeks ago. Some of you know that I have sold one of the dragsters we had and bought a Stock Eliminator car. It is a really clean car and in the 12 runs I have made with it, I am having a lot of fun. Some of the safety rules have changed since I last ran Stock Eliminator and one of them is that the driver must wear SFI-3/2A1 fire pants and jacket if you run faster than 11.50 or 11.99 (not sure which ET but it doesn’t matter in this case).
I was standing in the staging lanes at the Indy LODRS event a couple weeks ago and 99% of the drivers I noticed were all wearing fire pants and jacket or getting them on before they climbed in the car. One driver did not. He had the SFI jacket but was putting on a pair of worn out looking sweat pants and they were definitely not SFI-approved driving pants. Is this fair? Is it the responsibility of the track? Should I have told the tech guys to bump him out for first round? Tough call, right?
Here is what I did. It was a bit of an experiment actually. I approached the tech person working the staging lanes and asked him if he was a tech inspector. His reply was “Yes, I am, why?” I asked him if they ever did “spot inspections” or “surprise inspections” for safety equipment, loose ballast, etc. He said they did do different things from time to time. I mentioned I had seen a racer (no name mentioned) slip into some sweatpants and climb in his 10.60 second Stocker. I told the tech guy that it might be a “great time to set an example” on safety equipment. All they needed to do was take the winners of the round, have them get out of the car at the scales and check for SFI jacket and pants. I also mentioned this would get a lot of notice as this particular driver has won many National events and even World Championships. I told him it would set an excellent precedent that NHRA stands behind its rules and nobody is above the safety rules. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t see that happening.”
I won’t mention the driver’s name but I hope he reads this column. He should have been tossed and the guys he beat reinstated. Rules are rules and violating safety rules should not be tolerated, even if it might piss off a racing legend. If 99% of the drivers put up with the expense and the uncomfortable fit of SFI driving pants I think this one racer should be treated the same.