NASCAR mandates additional fire extinguisher

July 30, 2003

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 30, 2003) - NASCAR officials announced today that all vehicles in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will require an additional fire-extinguishing cylinder solely dedicated to the fuel cell area, effective Aug. 13 but recommended immediately.

An automatic, thermally activated discharge nozzle recommended by the manufacturer for this application must activate the cylinder, which is required to be made of DOT-approved metal. The automatic system may have a manual and/or pneumatic override from the driver-activated system. The cylinder must be mounted in the driver's compartment and will attach to a steel bracket welded to the frame and/or roll cage of the vehicle.

When discharged, the extinguisher releases Halon in the area of the fire. Halon, a proven and extremely effective fire suppressant, is a liquefied compressed gas that stops the spread of fire by chemically disrupting combustion. A minimum of 10 pounds of fire extinguishing agent is required in the cylinder for the fuel cell area.

"We've been working diligently on fire prevention and fire containment at the NASCAR Research and Development Center over the last few months," NASCAR Research and Development Managing Director Gary Nelson said. "After researching and testing various systems, we felt this was the most viable one for containment of potential fires coming from the fuel cell area."

In addition to the fire extinguisher cylinder being added for the fuel cell area, NASCAR has enhanced its requirements and specifications for the current on-board driver protection system as well as the fuel cell vent area.

The cockpit extinguisher, a manually controlled push or pull knob that activates a fully charged fire-extinguishing pressurized cylinder, now must contain a minimum of five pounds of extinguishing agent. Should the cylinder also be used for fire extinguishing in the engine compartment, it must contain a minimum of 10 pounds of extinguishing agent. The cylinder also must be securely mounted to the frame and/or roll cage, and hose clamps, worm drive clamps and cable ties are not permitted. In addition, all discharge lines and fittings for the cylinders must be steel or steel-reinforced hose although the nozzles may remain aluminum.

A maximum length for the neck of the fuel cell check valve vent hose has been set at three inches. By limiting length, it will make the component more impact resistant. The neck connects the fuel cell to the fuel cell vent hose and is located inside the trunk area of the vehicle. To accommodate the maximum neck length standard, fuel cell vent hoses will increase in length from 60 inches to a maximum of 66 inches.

"While researching this issue, we also identified other areas that could be improved by modifying the requirements or specifications for the teams," Nelson said. "We were able to make improvements to the driver and fuel cell/trunk compartments, and identify the best ways to install and apply the technology during this process."

In a related project, NASCAR will conduct a test of its alternate exit, or more commonly known as the roof hatch, on Aug. 6 at the Midwest Roadside Facility in Lincoln, Neb. NASCAR, which is working closely with facility director Dr. Dean Sicking on this project, will conduct a crash test that will simulate a rollover-type accident. A successful test could lead to a recommendation of the safety component by NASCAR to teams in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series. This safety initiative will provide drivers with an alternate exit through a hatch in the roof of the car in the event of an emergency situation.

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