Thursday, July 10, 2014

Adam Petty - Before the HANS Device

Adam Petty (7/10/1980 – 5/12/2000)
Every mother of a race car driver should be thankful to Adam Petty.

The HANS device (also known as a head restraint) is a safety item compulsory in many car racing sports. It reduces the likelihood of head and/or neck injuries, such as a basilar skull fracture, in the event of a crash.

While it was Dale Earnhardt's death (Feb. 18, 2001) that ultimately led NASCAR officials to mandate the use of the Head and Neck Support (HANS) device to prevent basilar skull fractures, Adam’s death in a practice crash started NASCAR’s migration to that mandate.

Adam Petty is the grandson of the King of NASCAR, Richard Petty and the son of former NASCAR driver and racing analyst, Kyle Petty. He was killed when his car crashed in Turn 3 at New Hampshire on May 12, 2000. NASCAR Cup Driver Kenny Irwin and NASCAR Driver Tony Roper also died in crash within six month of Adam’s crash.

However, after Earnhart Sr.’s tragedy, NASCAR conducted a one million dollar investigation into his death that included investigation experts Dr. James H. Raddin and Dr. Dean L. Sicking of the University of Nebraska. The six-month inquiry was the most comprehensive investigation of safety in NASCAR's then 53 years.

The results of the investigation were announced at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta on Aug. 21, 2001, and they concluded that a broken seat belt and subsequent blunt force trauma to the head resulted in a ring fracture to the base of the skull, which instantly killed Earnhardt. His head actually hit the steering wheel causing the fatal injury.

The report suggested that the HANS Device may have helped save Earnhardt. After much debate, NASCAR finally made the HANS Device and its rival, the Hutchens Device, mandatory in October 2001.

Adam Petty's star was extinguished way too early. Born on July 10, 1980, Adam was just nineteen at the time of his death. Within the year, the Petty family had announced plans to establish the Victory Junction Gang Camp for terminally and chronically ill children as a way to honor Adam, who was well-liked for his friendly demeanor and warm personality. The camp opened in 2004 and remains one of NASCAR's most popular official charities.

This NASCAR Race Mom appreciates the Adam’s sacrifice and recognizes the expense our sport’s safety extracted.  Happy Birthday Adam.

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