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Most sports have some risk of injury associated with it, but race car driving has several. Aside from the risk of crashing, there are also risks of fires and the potential for injury from flying debris on the track. NASCAR recognizes these risks and has made several moves to improve safety measures for its drivers, crew members, and fans.

Track Safety Improvements
While most tracks used to be surrounded by concrete barriers, many tracks have switched over to Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers. These barriers are much softer than concrete and help absorb the impact of a crash, often leading to less severe injuries and even preventing deaths. The Iowa Speedway is the first track in the nation to feature SAFER barriers around the entire circumference of the track.

Car Safety Improvements
The car is perhaps the most important component when it comes to driver safety, which is why so many steps have been taken to ensure it’s as safe as it can possibly be for a driver. Some of the improvements made include:

  • Head and Neck Support (HANS) device: Since 2005, this device has been worn by drivers to keep their head and helmet firmly in place to avoid whiplash in a crash.
  • Carbon fiber seats: The carbon fiber is excellent at absorbing impact during a crash. The newer seats also hug the driver around the shoulders and rib cage, keeping them firmly in place in the event of a crash.
  • Window nets: The nets keep flying debris out of the car when crashes occur. They also keep the limbs of the driver securely in the car if it crashes.
  • Six-point harness: Drivers wear a six-point harness that keeps them securely in their seats, but that can also be released quickly with a single latch should a car fire occur.

Clothing Safety Improvements
Everything a driver wears, including their suit, undergarments, shoes, and gloves, is flame-resistant. Each item is treated with a special flame retardant that helps keep the driver safe if a car fire occurs. Some drivers also wear shoes with heat shields to protect their feet from the hot engine during a race.