EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – The Daytona 500 is kicking off the NASCAR season this weekend.
Dr. Bob Hubbard, a former professor of bio-mechanics at Michigan State co-invented a lifesaving safety restraint that is keeping drivers safe when things go wrong on the track.
It’s the fastest sport in the country and one of the most dangerous.
“They don’t mind seeing big crashes, but they want the guys to get up get out of the car and wave to the crowd.”
In the 1990’s basilar skull fractures were a common cause of death among NASCAR drivers, but it was the death of legend Dale Earnhardt that sparked widespread change.
“The shock of having Earnhardt die like Ayrton Senna being killed began to make racing unacceptable,” said Dr. Bob Hubbard, inventor, HANS device.
Enter former Michigan State professor Robert Hubbard, and his head and neck support device, or HANS for short, which exploded in popularity after the Earnhardt tragedy.
“It definitely changed the industry. It was a kind of a step in the history of safety in NASCAR,” said John Patalak, senior manager of safety and engineering, NASCAR.
Hubbard’s device was a simple concept, but it was ahead of its time, drivers began wearing the device regularly 15 years ago.
“We sold like 250 of these things for the 10 years previous. Not 250 a year, 250 total and we didn’t have production capacity for hundreds of orders or thousands of orders,” said Dr. Bob Hubbard.
Since widespread implementation of the HANS device across NASCAR, there has not been a single death in the Sprint Cup Series..
“There have been many, many, many impacts in much greater severity than Earnhardt’s where the driver has no neck injury, no head or neck injury. Some of the big ones from last year, you look at Kyle Busch’s crash at Daytona, for the severity of the crash he had no injuries from the knees up which is really a testament to the HANS device,” said John Patalak.
Now retired, having sold his stake in the company that produces the devices, Hubbard rests easy knowing that his idea while questioned at first has same countless lives in motor sports.
“One time Jeff Gordon was in a reception line with me and he was behind me. He tapped me on the shoulder and said Bob you saved my life already once this year and that’s, that’s, it’s hard to explain what that means,” said Dr. Bob Hubbard.