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 Columns & Editorials

January 14, 2002

"2002 Racing Season, Please Put Safety First"

by Sharon Fancher

I have spent the last 15 years around racers and to me
there are no finer people anywhere. However, as with any
large group of people, there's always a few with a stray
air bubble in their think tanks, which can lead to lock-
up. A small but disconcerting percentage of racers have
the ability to be mechanical wizards, skillful competitors
and safety boneheads all at the same time.

I'd love to have a free pit pass for every fast car I've
seen that also was accompanied by a few exceedingly dumb
safety mistakes. Of course, there are slow cars with
equally dumb mistakes, and it is important to remember
that differences in lap times do nothing to mitigate the
level of danger racers can find themselves in.

Racing can put competitors in situations that look comical
when seen in a photograph - afterwards, if all ended well.
Unfortunately, some of the situations seen are deadly
serious and, while they may appear humorous, could easily
result in real-life tragedy.

Far too many racers still think a window net is only to
keep arms and other body parts inside the car. They
do that very well, but nets also keep many potentially
harmful things; tires, rocks, clods of dirt from entering
the car and knocking you out or worse.

Another far-too-common mistake: Many cars in certain
divisions allow some form of hood scoop or tunnel to
provide clearance for air cleaners. This, however, is
not a scoop. It is a duct that, with great but
unintentional accuracy, can and will aim fire or hot
liquids escaping from under the hood directly at the

Another dangerous practice is stretching a tire to
increase it's diameter. Intentionally over-pressurizing
a tire is ALWAYS DANGEROUS. Manufacturers recommend
against this practice but racers do it anyway, primarily
with bias-ply tires. An exploding tire does not care if
it's being installed or stretched; the consequences can
be equally lethal in each case.

For the vast majority of competitors, racing is a hobby -
pursued with a passion, but still a hobby. Taking
chances with your own or others' personal safety should
not be part of any team's program. While we're on the
subject of safety, all these things people already know,
but sometimes choose to ignore for some reason or

Before anyone goes under a car for any reason, it should be
solidly supported by heavy-duty jackstands. Everyone
knows they'll lose the gravity battle against a 3,000
plus pound racecar but we see people do this time and
again. I've seen some people who choose not to use jack
stands at every track I've visited. Why, because they
are in a hurry? That's NO excuse.

Radiator Caps:
No matter who you are, you're not fast enough to get your
hand out of the way. Racing cooling systems can be
under tremendous pressure and removing a radiator cap
usually unleashes a powerful geyser of scalding water
that will burn whoever it contacts. How many times have
you seen people do this?

Coolant Systems:
How often have you seen a team remove the hood from an
overheating racecar and immediately set it on the roof?
The crew has forgotten that the upper radiator neck is
aimed at the interior of the car, or at least at the
windshield. If the normal pressure build-up in the
cooling system, after the engine is shut down, blows
off the top hose, the driver or anyone nearby will be
sprayed with scalding water. Think about it!!!!

Stay Aware:
Never ever turn your back on moving racecars whether they
are on the track or in the pits. Drivers often can't see
well through dirty windshields and often pit lighting is
not very bright - and the high state of excitement overall
can mean that not everyone sees everything. Always assume
drivers cannot see you and position yourself accordingly.
Get out of harm's way!

Tragedies, such as the loss of so many racers this past year,
should make all of us stop and look at what we can do and
make sure that these simple safety procedures are used.
Racing will continue to be fun as long as all of us come
back next week to try it again. Let's have a great 2002

Have an opinion on this story? Post a message on our Message Board!
or send a letter to the editor!



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