18 May 2001
18 May 2001
BR> The president of Lowe's Motor Speedway unveiled a front safety bumper Wednesday that he thinks NASCAR drivers will approve.
Humpy Wheeler said the bumper is designed to address concerns about the rigidity of the front of stock cars. The stiffness in the cars allows crew chiefs to accurately make suspension settings, but some think the rigid front fails to dissipate enough energy away from a driver. The stiffness in the cars came into question after last year's death of drivers Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin in on-track accidents and it intensified when Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the final turn of the Daytona 500. All three drivers hit the wall at close to head-on angles. ``It's very rare that the stiffness of the front clip causes a lethal situation,'' Wheeler said. ``But three of the sport's recent on-track deaths have occurred during similar, front-angle impacts. That's why several experts feel it's the front of the car that needs immediate attention.'' So Wheeler approached Paul Lew, a Las Vegas-based composite materials engineer designer and manufacturer about creating a device that would help absorb the energy of a frontal impact, yet fit a stock car with minimum modifications to NASCAR's requirements. The result was the bumper-like device -- so far nicknamed the ``Humpy Bumper'' -- that would fit onto a stock car. The cars currently do not have a bumper. The device is designed to absorb the energy of 20 to 30-degree frontal impacts. It would break under certain force, but would also withstand the common bumps and rigors of a normal stock car race.
Wheeler said NASCAR officials were sent plans of an early version but had yet to see the final model. But he said whether or not NASCAR approves it could depend on how drivers react to it.
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