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DATE News (chronologically 07/22/00 to 07/28/00)
7/31/00

New memo Gidley website - CART driver Memo Gidley has a flashy new website at www.memogidley.com  Please check it out.  This guy is turning a lot of Champ car owner's heads.

7/31/00

CART teams off to Road America - Almost all the CART teams packed up and left Chicago soon after the race and headed back to the shop to pick up a few things before heading to Road America for two days of testing 8/1 and 8/2.  Limited fan access is permitted at turns 12, 13 & 14.

7/31/00

Did you know? - Dr. Mario Theissen of BMW, engine supplier to the Williams team, made a revelation and that itheir endurance dyno program is based directly on the Hockenheim circuit, notorious for the fact that it can be an engine designer's nightmare.  He explained: "We have two basic types of dyno testing. One is functional - power runs etc - and the other is endurance. For this we replicate the Hockenheim track on the dyno so it treats the engine in the same way it's treated here, with the same throttle movements, the same loads and the slightly longer duration. We go a little beyond a race distance plus the warm up in order to have a margin".  He commented on the problems that they have experienced thus far in 2000 engine wise and said: "The issues we've had with the engine this year have been things like leakages, electrical failures, connectors and wiring looms - not so much the basic engine".

7/31/00

That was supposed to be Fittipaldi below - Fittipaldi, who sustained a concussion in a crash on Friday during practice and went home to rest, was also supposed to be part of the ongoing filming on Saturday and Sunday in Chicago for CHAMPS.  Needless to say, from the picture below, it looks like Memo Gidley or Kenny Brack got to fill in for him.

7/31/00

CHAMPS release date moved up to May 2001 - Sylvester Stallone said the movie CHAMPS will be released in May 2001, rather than June 2001 as previously announced.  We assume it will be just before the Indy 500.  On Saturday morning directors shot a victory scene supposedly from Motegi, Japan. Today, after the Target Grand Prix, they shot victory scenes from the Chicago race.  At right, Champcar Driver Memo Gidley, Actor Til Schweiger, and Champ Car Driver Kenny Brack, on actual Target Grand Prix podium, filming scene taken Sunday July 30th in Chicago immediately after actual podium ceremony. Photo by Donnie Graves

7/31/00

Three Earnhardt's in Michigan Winston Cup Race - Kerry Earnhardt, brother of Dale Earnhardt Jr., will make his Winston Cup debut in next month's Winston Cup race at Michigan International Speedway to race against his father and brother.  It may lead to a fulltime ride in 2001. As this story explains, he will drive for Dave Marcis. The Petty's did it before the Earnhardt's though.

7/30/00

Gugelmin on CNNSI chat - Mauricio Gugelmin, driver of the #17 Nextel PacWest Mercedes-Benz, will be a guest on the CNN Sports Illustrated chat room Monday at Noon ET. The chat will be promoted on CNNSI.com from 10am and fans will have the chance to post questions of their own to CART's fastest man. Mauricio finished seventh in today's Target Grand Prix at the Chicago Motor Speedway - the 12th round of the FedEx Championship Series. 

7/30/00

CART may release 2002 schedule early - CART's official 2001 schedule will be released by Wednesday.  Today Bobby Rahal stated that he's trying to release the 2002 schedule as early as 45 days from now.  That may be a bit ambitious, but we applaud his effort.  Our unofficial 2001 schedule.

7/30/00

Mercedes to use qualifying motor in race - Mercedes has been working on improving their engines performance, i.e. more HP.  They have met with some success as Gugelmin qualified 3rd with the highly modified engine at Cleveland and Kanaan did the same for today's Target GP at Chicago.  Kanaan will be the first to try the motor in an actual race.  The Mercedes teams are happy to see their engines have new pieces every race now in an effort to play catch up.  They need to start winning races or risk no one wanting to use their engines next year.

7/29/00

Sigma to get new car soon - The new Sigma race team, with driver Max Wilson, will have their new Ford XF powered Lola ready for testing sometime in late September.

7/29/00

Gidley to run rest of ovals for Della Penna - Memo Gidley will run the remaining oval races this year for John Della Penna.  Norberto Fontana will do the remaining road and street races.

7/29/00

Giaffone to test for Mo Nunn - Felipe Giaffone will do a 2-day test for Mo Nunn Racing in Sebring this coming Thursday and Friday.  Giaffone is the teams 'official' test driver, though as of yet, has not been asked to do so.

7/29/00

Fittipaldi back home resting - Christian Fittipaldi traveled back to his U.S. base of Key Biscayne, Fla. this afternoon after suffering a mild concussion in a practice accident yesterday. He will be back in the racecar for the next CART FedEx race at the Miller Lite 200 at Mid Ohio Sports Car course August 11-13.

7/29/00

Sabco/Ganassi announcement Friday - Look for the Sabco team to make a big announcement in Indy this Friday on the long running rumor that Chip Ganassi is buying a majority share of the team.

7/29/00

Buddy Rice qualify on pole for tomorrow's CART Toyota Atlantic race at Trois Rivieres - Buddy Rice  will start tomorrow's CART Toyota Atlantic race at the Grand Prix Player's de Trois Rivieres from pole position, by virtue of setting a new track record time of 1:00.804 (90.053 miles per hour). The pole marks the fifth of Rice's career and second of this year, as well as the second career pole for the newly formed DSTP Atlantic team. "It's great to finally get another pole this year," said Rice, who started from pole in the first race of the 2000 Atlantic season opening doubleheader at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March. "We were able to run through everything that we wanted to in practice this morning, so we had a good idea of the set-up to use for qualifying. We also expected the track to slow down about three-tenths this afternoon. I knew that if we could keep it clean and run the full session, then we would have a good shot at getting pole. It's good to be starting the race from the front row here. The track is really hard to pass on and if there are any accidents, it will be crucial to be strong on restarts. But, we should be good. We have a great car for the race and we're all very motivated to win tomorrow."  Rice began the day by setting the fastest time in the morning practice session (1:00.523). As the temperatures rose preceding the 1:00 pm qualifying session, the lap times dropped approximately three-tenths of a second across the Atlantic field. Rice set the provisional pole time of 1:00.967 thirteen minutes into the 30-minute session, then responded with his new record time on his twentieth lap with nine minutes remaining. Rice was the only driver to qualifying under 1:01.00.  Starting second tomorrow is Andrew Bordin (1:01.017) followed by Dan Wheldon (1:01.084), David Rutledge (1:01.343) and Alex Gurney (1:01.428). Rice earns one bonus championship point for qualifying on pole and extends his lead over Bordin to eight points. His previous poles came at Long Beach (1998), Nazareth (1998), Houston (1999) and at Homestead this year. 

7/28/00

CART and Dept. of Transportation announcement - UPDATE - We added this photo of Rodnet Slater meeting with Michael Andretti.  7/27/00 - On Firday U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater and CART will announce renewal of their highway and vehicle safety partnership.   This third year partnership and safety initiative will include a series of new public service announcements (PSAs) and print advertisements featuring CART drivers to promote seat belt and motor vehicle safety messages. Also joining Secretary Slater and CEO Rahal will be representatives of the Chicago Motor Speedway, Ford Racing and the Target/Chip Ganassi Team who will announce related safety initiatives.  Drivers present will include  Michael Andretti or Adrian Fernandez, and Juan Montoya or Jimmy Vasser.  Safety materials also are available to consumers by calling NHTSA at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT or by visiting NHTSA's website.

7/28/00

All Toyota engines now using single wastegate turbo   In Chicago this weekend all Toyota teams are running with the single wastegate configuration in practice and qualifying.  It produces about 15 more HP and is some 50 pounds lighter. 

7/28/00

HANS Device saves Fittipaldi from serious injury   In the first practice session of the day, Christian Fittipaldi, 29, was involved in a single-car accident at the exit of turn two on the one-mile track. According to Dr. Chris Pinderski of the CART Medical staff, Fittipaldi was briefly unconscious at the scene, but was later awake and alert at the CART Medical Facility. Pinderski also said that Fittipaldi reported slight pain in his right knee. Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, reported that Fittipaldi suffered a Grade 1 concussion following the incident. He was transported via ambulance to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood for a precautionary CAT Scan. Dr. Kimberly A. Davis, M.D., attending physician at Loyola University Medical Center reported that the CAT Scan was negative for damage and that Fittipaldi had no broken bones and released him from the hospital.  "I remember being slightly aware that I was in a race car, then I thought I was away from the race track and then back," said Fittipaldi. "I didn't like it at all. Compared to the other times I was unconscious, this was totally different since I could hear and see certain things but wasn't sure if I was dreaming. I have no idea what happened. The car just swung around and I was just a passenger. There is no doubt that I am really disappointed not to be racing."   Fittipaldi has been involved in the development of the Head and Neck System (HANS) created by Dr. Robert Hubbard since late 1999 and had the system on at the time of his accident today. Fittipaldi as well as his teammate, Michael Andretti were the first Champ or Indy car drivers to voluntarily wear the device in a race and wore the system at the previous event, the Michigan 500, for the first time.  "Based on the discussions I had with Dr. Terry Trammell and the extensive damage to Christian's car, there is not much question that the HANS kept his injury to a minimum as opposed to his injuries sustained in a similar accident at Gateway," said Dr. Olvey. 

7/28/00

Buddy Rice on provisional front row at Trois Rivieres   After setting the second fastest time in this morning's practice session, DSTP Atlantic and driver Buddy Rice followed-up by again setting the identical time (1:01.441) in provisional qualifying for Sunday's CART Toyota Atlantic race, part of the Grand Prix Player's de Trois Rivieres weekend. The time places him second on the provisional grid pending the results of tomorrow's final round of qualifying.   Rice, who held pole position for much of the 30-minute session, remained in the pits for the closing ten minutes to replace a damaged rear wing following contact with the turn one tire barrier.  "We just made our final adjustment and were ready to lay down a fast time," said Rice, who set his fastest time on his 17th lap of the session. "I got a little off line in turn one, skimmed the tires and broke the rear wing. We held the pole up until the last few minutes, but we'll have another chance tomorrow. We should be in good shape. We're real happy with the car and know there's still some more speed to found. Tomorrow will be better." 

7/28/00

Watkins Glen seat discount - Watkins Glen International announced today that fans will be able to “stake their claim” during the GOLD rush for the Global Crossing @ The Glen NASCAR Winston Cup Series race August 10 - 13. The Glen is now offering tickets in the Gold Grandstand for only $60, a 25% discount off the regular admission. The GOLD grandstand features premium seats within view of a JUMBO TRON, the front stretch, pit road and the action-packed Turn 1. With the JUMBO TRON in view, fans will be able to keep up with the action anywhere on the track. Fans purchasing these tickets will also have infield access to visit the souvenir trailers and other points of interest within the facility. In addition, these tickets allow fans access for the entire weekend, with reserved seats for Saturday and Sunday’s racing action. 

7/28/00

Final Michigan 500 TV rating a 2.0 - The Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, aired live Sunday, July 23 on ABC-TV, made its way into the prestigious top 10 network sports telecasts for the week of July 17-23, according to the Nielsen Sports Marketing Service. The Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, the third-closest race in Champ Car history and one of the most thrilling of all time with 52 lead changes, ranked 10th for the week and was the only auto-racing event to make the network list. The 500-mile race at Michigan Speedway, won by Juan Montoya by a mere 0.40 seconds over Michael Andretti, received a 2.0 rating, 6 share and reached an audience of 2,058,000 households. It marked the first time this season that a CART telecast made the top 10 network sports telecasts. (The Grand Prix of Miami Presented By Toyota was in the Top 10 Cable Sports Telecasts for the week of 3/20-26/00.) The week was dominated by ABC’s British Open , which captured four of the top-10 spots, including the top one with Sunday’s telecast. The Olympic Trials for track and field (NBC) and the NFL Quarterback Challenge (CBS) also had multiple positions. The Trials ranked second and sixth while the Challenge was seventh and eighth. Fox’s national Saturday baseball game of the week took the other spot, fourth overall

7/28/00

CART schedule out Wednesday - Bobby Rahal stated today that the 2001 CART schedule will be released Wednesday.  This is our best guess at what it will look like.

7/27/00

Monterrey, Mexico news  - The circuit is set in Monterrey’s Fundidora Park and entwines amongst the old steel factory monoliths with a backdrop of sharp and steep mountains over 2,500m above sea level.  The track is just about 2-miles in length and the Champ cars are expected to exceed 180mph on the fastest straight.  The first CART event will be held on March 11th 2001 and with crowd expectations of over 250,000+.  And what will $27,000 buy you?  A suite fitted out with TV monitors and furniture, serviced by 2 personal hosts for food and beverage requirements, thirty (30) 4-day corporate passes, thirty (30) pit passes over 4 days permitting corporate access to the restricted Champ Car pit area (excluding “Race Pit” period),  thirty (30) designated VIP parking spots, one (1) 6m x 1m balustrade sign on the facade of the suite and signage identifying the holder of the suite, and two (2) advertising signs, each measuring 1.8m x 0.6m will be placed on back of track barriers for spectator viewing.

7/27/00

Ground broken for Bettenhausen Center - It was announced today on RPM2Night that ground had been broken for the Bettenhausen Recreation center in honor of Tony Bettenhausen Sr. and Jr.

7/27/00

Herdez buying into Bettenhausen Motorsports  - It was announced today on RPM2Night that a tentative agreement has been reached whereby Bettenhausen Motorsports primary sponsor, Herdez, will buy a majority share of the team.  This comes on the heels of the announcement that Keith Wiggins will be the new team manager and a minority owner.

7/26/00

F-1 job opportunities  
Williams - Model Maker and CNC Milling (5 axis) Programmer
McLaren - Electrical Harness Technician
Jordan - Senior and Junior Design Engineers
BMW - F1 Engine Designer

7/26/00

Keith Wiggins joins Bettenhausen  We spoke with Keith Wiggins two days ago regarding the news of Andrea Montermini driving for the team at Surfers.  We now learn (from Autosport.com) the former boss of the Pacific Grand Prix team has taken control of Bettenhausen Motorsports and is negotiating to become a part-owner of the struggling team.  Wiggins took Pacific in Formula One in 1994 after a successful Formula 3000 program, but the team dropped out with massive debts after just two seasons at the back of the grid.  He subsequently worked for chassis manufacturer Lola, but split with the company a month ago. He made his first appearance with Bettenhausen at last weekend’s Michigan 500.  “It’s nice to be back in competition,” Wiggins said. “F1 was out of reach, Champ Cars is the next best thing.   “I’m taking an oversight role this year and looking at the chassis and engine options for 2001.”

7/26/00

Penske team spends a lot of time in wind tunnel  Did you know that by the end of the season the Penske team will have spent the equivalent of 290 days in the wind tunnel trying to make their Reynard faster than the other Reynard's?

7/26/00

#7 Team to switch to Ford's  Michael Waltrip and Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith announced of their Nations Rent Winston Cup team will be driving ford Taurus' powered by Larry Wallace/Penske engines. They also will be getting technical support on aerodynamics and wind tunnel testing from Penske Motorsports. Crew chief Bobby Kennedy is remaining with the team contrary to wide speculation. Michael Waltrip has also signed a one-year extension with Ultra Motorsports.  #7 Nations Rent FORD picture

7/25/00

Former CART driver Unser wants the IRL to slow down his competition  Al Unser Jr. thinks Greg Ray is too fast.  He has called for the IRL to adopt the NASCAR philosophy of equalizing the competition as soon as someone gains an advantage.  He thinks Greg Ray's runaway win in Atlanta was unfair.  What Unser fails to understand is that NASCAR equalizes the different makes of cars.  Last time we checked, Ray had the same Oldsmobile engine as Unser has.  That's like saying if Jack Roush's Ford is faster than Robert Yates' Ford, NASCAR should slow down Roush.

7/25/00

Rockingham seating  The main grandstand of the Rockingham England track will have 27,500 permanent seats.  Rockingham will install temporary bleacher-type seats elsewhere around the track, depending on ticket demand.  In subsequent years they will add more permanent grandstand seating by using some of the profits from previous years.

7/25/00

Updated Honda engine for Germany  Honda will have a more powerful engine for BAR when the F1 circus arrives at the Hockenheim circuit for the German GP

7/25/00

Button hard on BMW engines  BMW has admitted that Jenson Button's style of using the engine to slow the car more than his teammate has led to his engines being more unreliable.  BMW says they have fixed the problem and Button does not have to change his driving style.

7/25/00

Oriol Servia CNN Chat transcript  Oriol Servia was a guest on CNN Sports Illustrated today.  Our Mark Cipolloni got to ask the first question.  Transcript

7/25/00

Montoya has minor eye procedure  Juan Montoya had some small debris from Sunday's Michigan race get through his face shield and into his eye.  He spent time in the eye doctor's office today having it removed.  He was told to rest his eyes until Thursday and everything should be OK for him to race this weekend in Chicago.

7/25/00

Michigan 500 Race TV Rebroadcast  Set your VCR's for 2:00 PM EST to 5:30 PM EST tomorrow (Wednesday) on ESPN for the rebroadcast of last Sunday's Michigan 500.  With 162 lead changes and a photo finish, it was arguably the best race ever, and one worth saving in your VCR tape library.

7/24/00

Can CART fill these Texas Grandstands?  Permanent Grandstand Seating: 154,861; Infield Capacity: approx. 53,000; Total Estimated Capacity: 204,861

7/24/00

NASCAR teams working on sticking throttle problem  One solution is to have a sensor that will be set to know when a driver is applying much more pressure than normal and kill the ignition.  Another solution is a kill switch that the driver presses.  We think this won't work because a driver is so focused on regaining control of his car using the steering wheel and brake, they won't think to move their hand off the steering wheel and press the button in time, or if they do, it will be too late as wrecks happen very quickly.

7/24/00

Help wanted  Reynard is looking for Transmission Designers to travel to the USA and interface with the race teams.  Given their recent spat of transmission problems, maybe they have done a little house cleaning.

7/24/00

CART Drivers on RPM2Night this week  While RPM2Night typically has a NASCAR driver or someone else connected to NASCAR on the show every day for the entire racing season (which has helped NASCAR grow in popularity immensely), this week RPM2Night is originating from Chicago and will have the following CART representatives on the show:
Tuesday - Bobby Rahal and Juan Montoya (Columbia)
Wednesday - Kenny Brack (Sweden) and Adrian Fernandez (Mexico)
Thursday - Gil de Ferran (Brazil), Cristiano Da Matta (Brazil) and Oriol Servia (Spain)
Friday - Michael Andretti (USA), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), Dario Franchitti (Scotland), Paul Tracy (Canada), Jimmy Vasser (USA), Max Papis (Italy) and Chip Ganassi

7/24/00

Help wanted  The Benetton team and Renault (their new owners) is looking for two Electronics technicians, one for their race team and one for the in-house Electronics Department.

7/24/00

New Renault engine will be delayed  The new Renault engine will not be ready for the start of the 2001 season when Renault was supposed to make its return to F1.  However, given the Benetton team will not change its name to Renault until 2002, the engine manufacturer may be well served spending 2001 perfecting the engine.

7/24/00

Rockingham layout turned 90 degrees  Did you know that the layout of the Rockingham, England track was rotated 90 degrees clockwise so it made better use of the site on which it is being built? 

7/24/00

Villeneuve resigns with BAR  British American Racing today announced that driver Jacques Villeneuve has agreed terms to stay with the Northamptonshire-based Formula One team for a further three years.   Commenting on the successful conclusion to the negotiations with the 1997 Formula One World Champion, BAR Managing Director, Craig Pollock, said: We are absolutely delighted with Jacques decision and the fact he has registered a significant vote of confidence in British American Racing. Jacques has been an integral part of the team since its formation two years ago, and his commitment to stay indicates that he shares our belief that this is an organization with which he can win races, and ultimately the World Championship, in the future.   The announcement concludes several months of negotiation and will bring to an end intense media speculation concerning Villeneuve's future plans. 

7/24/00

Kurosawa update  Dale Coyne Racing rookie Takuya Kurosawa, injured in a crash during qualifying Saturday, was released from the hospital Sunday.  Dr. Steve Olvey, CART director of medical affairs, said Kurosawa suffered a minor concussion, sore neck and bruised left foot in the crash.  He said he will examine Kurosawa later this week to determine whether the Japanese driver can participate in the Target Grand Prix next Sunday at Chicago Motor Speedway.

7/23/00

Seen at Michigan II  Cal Wells was seen going into the Ford Hospitality meeting room with some high-level Ford folks.  We assume to talk about his NASCAR program.  Or was he?  We talked to Cosworth personnel who told us the whole controversy with Robert Yates and Jack Roush was just a misunderstanding of what Cosworth would do for Ford.  Any gains they find will be passed down to all the Ford engine builders, not just Cal Wells.

7/23/00

Seen at Michigan UPDATE We have added some photos of Johnny from here at Michigan.  7/22/00 - Johnny Herbert talking to several team owners, and Leo Mehl, former President of the IRL.  With Johnny here in Michigan, speculation is rising that he is hoping to get a Champ Car ride next year, possibly as a swap for Franchitti which we rumored weeks ago on our rumors page.  More on Johnny Herbert

7/23/00

Champ Car drivers don't use spotters  We asked the top 3 qualifier's yesterday if spotter's were critical here at Michigan because the cars race wheel-to-wheel.  We were surprised to hear the response from two drivers - almost like it was an insult to ask that question. "We don't need spotters telling us who is next to us like in some other series.  We have mirrors for that."  We were told in CART the spotters they do use are just to tell them where a wreck may be or where the leader is.

7/23/00

Salles at Michigan  We saw Gaulter Salles here at Michigan this weekend.  Since losing his ride at Dale Coyne Racing following its deal to field the factory Swift began in April, Salles has not been seen. Salles will act as spotter for Christian Fittipaldi during tomorrow's Michigan 500.

7/23/00

Honda beats Toyota at their own game  We found it kind of ironic that Honda's Robert Clarke came out and stated in this weeks Manufacturer's Forum that we (he was referring to Toyota's Jim Aust sitting two seats to his left) should have never gone down this path of special single wastegate qualifying engines, it costs too much for such little gain.  The gain is said to be 15 HP.  So what does Honda do, they build a better mousetrap than Toyota.  One car ran Honda's trick engine in qualifying at Michigan yesterday.  It sits on the pole with Paul Tracy.  However, perhaps Ford's Ian Bisco said it best - we don't need all that trick stuff.  We're right there without it."  "CART should ban it now.  It just drives costs higher."

7/22/00

Update on HANS Device story below:  A reader writes:
Just a note - the information about Steve Knapp included in your notes about the HANS device in the Newman Haas notes was incorrect. 

Steve Knapp was not driving with any injury at Indy 2000. While he was injured at Atlanta in July 1999 that injury was fully healed by late 1999. His injury was similar to Mark Blundell's (and Emerson Fittapaldi's) with the exception that he chose to have the more certain surgical repair rather than Blundell's choice to wear a brace and let it heal naturally. After the surgical repair the spine is actually stronger than pre-injury from what I' ve been told by medical professionals. 

Steve in fact spent several weeks in Florida in January 2000 racing his shifter kart, which exerts some of the highest lateral G forces of any racing. Most who've driven one will say the neck is one of the first things to get tired. 

Steve wore the HANS at Indy at the request/suggestion of Dr's Olvey and Trammell, to help gather information and refine the new version of the device. Steve also wore the new Simpson quick release helmet strap. Actually, like the others you've noted, Steve Knapp was a bit of a guinea pig at Indy as well. 

In my opinion, the doctors, like many involved in the sport, believe in the need to be pro-active with these type safety improvements. If there is the slightest chance that something like the HANS device could/would prevent or minimize injury to a driver it should be strongly pursued. 

Again, in my opinion, since Driver's in general are reluctant to change, especially with things like HANS that may be in any way restrictive, the efforts of people like Dr's Trammell & Olvey and the HANS group are crucial in spearheading these efforts. Working with the drivers they've developed ongoing relationships with is the logical place to start. 

Drivers like Steve, Christian, etc., that have been injured, clearly have a first hand knowledge of the risks and consequences of their profession. Which makes them likely and logical to help with the development and refinement of improvements like the HANS program. 

Driver safety is clearly a priority and an ongoing effort for Dr's Trammell & Olvey. They've been positive and proactive proponents in searching for solutions. Seats and headrests in both the IRL & CART are a good example. I think we're all thankful that not only do they put the broken guy's back together but constantly look for ways to keep them from getting broken in the first place. 

The interesting story here is how these drivers are volunteering to help develop these new safety features. Both the HANS Device and also the new Simpson quick release helmet strap. While a helmet strap might seem a minor detail it's potentially a major improvement. 

Rather than the safety crew having to cut off the helmet strap in the case of an injured driver, the new Simpson strap has a quick release mechanism. Not only was it hard to get at the old strap (against the drivers neck, under his helmet and hard to reach with driver down in the cockpit) but it risked further injury to the driver in getting it cut because of the jostling/jerking needed to get at the strap and cut it. 

With a conscious and relatively stable driver the Dr's and safety crew often get them out of the car and stabilized before removing the helmet, but for a driver in distress there isn't sometimes that luxury and they need to get the helmet off as quickly as possible. The risk of further injury gets offset by the medical urgency of the situation. And in this case the ability to simply hit a quick release saves valuable time and reduces the risk of aggravating injuries further. 

Although this new strap and buckle seems really minor on the surface, it actually has the potential to both reduce aggravating injuries and even to possibly save lives. 

A good snapshot of the dedication to safety was at Indy, in the garage area before the race, seeing the Dr's, Steve Knapp and EVERY orange suit safety worker gathered around Knapp and his car, learning how to work with and making suggestions about the HANS device and the new helmet straps. 

I guess the point here is that although it doesn't always "trickle up" to the public there is a constant behind the scenes push and desire, from the drivers, manufacturer's, sanctioning bodies, doctors, tracks, teams, etc all the way to the safety crew's, to do everything possible to keep the driver's as safe as possible. And I think that's a great story to hear. 



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7/21/00

Newman Haas drivers top the charts in morning practice at Michigan  Newman Haas drivers Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi turned the two fastest laps this morning at Michigan Speedway, Andretti above 235 mph and Fittipaldi above 233 mph.  We spoke to both drivers after the session and both said they are concentrating on race setups.  They are happy with their Lola Ford's. They unloaded fast off the trailer.  Andretti was so confident he sat out the last 15 minutes of practice while the other drivers tried to match his speed.  He thinks he has a top-5 car for qualifying, but is very confident his car will be a front runner on race day.  Both drivers are wearing the HANS Device all weekend. UPDATE Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi has been instrumental in the development of the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system since it was presented at the drivers meeting at the 1999 season-finale at the California Speedway. Both Fittipaldi and Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti voluntarily wore the system during practice today. HANS creator, Dr. Robert Hubbard was on-site today. The Formula One series has mandated the use of the HANS beginning with the 2001 season. Fittipaldi voluntarily wore the system during practice at the Tenneco Automotive Detroit Grand Prix street race but due to the amount of head mobility needed on a street course, the system is undergoing further development. Sunday will mark the first time a driver has worn the system in a Champ or Indy car voluntarily during a race. Norberto Fontana raced in the Nazareth CART event with the device on Dr. Steve Olvey's orders while Steve Knapp wore the HANS at Indy at the request/suggestion of Dr's Olvey and Trammell to gather more information on the new version of the device. Steve also wore the new Simpson quick release helmet strap.


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