NASCAR's Research and Develop Team: The Unsung Heroes of the Sport

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IAugust 8, 2010

LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 01:  The wrecked #19 Air Force Ford, driven by Elliott Sadler, gets towed through the garage area after he hit the wall in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2010 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

It was the shot heard around the NASCAR world, and amazingly Elliott Sadler walked away from one of the hardest hits in the history of the sport during last weekend’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Speedway.

Sadler hit the inside retaining wall after reacting to a wreck that involved Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, and Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch on the straightaway between turns one and two.

After the race Sadler credited the HANS device, the carbon fiber seat designed by Hendrick Motorsports and new safety designs NASCAR implemented in the new car for protecting him.

"I'm very thankful for that,” said Sadler after walking out of the infield car center with nothing more than a only a sore right shoulder and collarbone, and minor scrapes from the seat belts.

Sadler also added that, "I think 10 years ago in the aluminum seat and no HANS and having that same wreck we'd be maybe talking about something different now."

Even though NASCAR did not share the amount of G-forces recorded by the black box with the public, the numbers did go to Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska, along with Richard Petty Motorsports where they were analyzed.

Last season during the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen International Speedway, Jeff Gordon’s day ended with a frightening accident and a trip to the infield care center, after Sam Hornish Jr. bounced off a protective barrier and into the path of Gordon.

The accident happened when Kasey Kahne and Hornish were racing each other side by side going into Turn 5 on lap 61.

Kahne got loose and knocked Hornish into the tire barrier, Hornish then spun back onto the track, where Gordon immediately smashed into him, Gordon then hit head-on into the inside barrier.

“Sam Hornish and I think Kasey Kahne were racing hard, and then Sam went off the track and then ricocheted back across the track in front of me. I had nowhere to go,” said Gordon after leaving the infield care center.

Gordon also added that, “I think that is a testament to the safety of these cars that none of us involved were injured.”

Since last year’s incident, track officials made the necessary improvements to keep the drivers safe, which included adding newly paved run-off areas.

With all the attention being put on the various safety devices which have been implemented within the past five to 10 years.

The real credit belongs to the members of NASCAR’s research and development team, who put in the long hours designing some of auto racings safest cars.

Along with figuring out ways to improve on the safety of the cars, the R&D team also assists in keeping the various tracks as safe as possible.

So the next time you see one of our drivers walk away from a wreck that maybe 10-20 years ago could have possibly had a different outcome, remember there are engineers who spend countless hours making sure they will be back to race another day.


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