In light of the upcoming superspeedway race in Talladega, Winston Cup driver Steve Park responded favorably today to NASCAR 's safety update and supports their position of testing to ensure all possible avenues are researched.
"I believe that NASCAR is looking at every avenue to make sure we are safe," said Park, who drives the Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-owned Pennzoil Chevrolet. "Nobody really knows what type of changes need to be made and I applaud them for taking their time and not just jumping to a quick fix. This is obviously a concern for everyone but one that needs to be looked at thoroughly."
Using the HANS device for the first time during the recent Texas race, Park listened to the advice of other drivers and sought the knowledge of three-time champion Jeff Gordon when it came to using the harness.
"I worked with Jeff Gordon and some other drivers, and I think Jeff Gordon has probably done something inside his racecar that I'd feel the most comfortable with after looking at what some of the other drivers have," added Park, who currently sits fifth in the Winston Cup points standings, 10 away from third. "With his help, I emulated what he has in his car for head restraints, and worked with the HANS people to come up with a device that fits me. Each driver needs to seek out what makes him the most secure."
"People ask me, 'Why don't you get a new job, do something else?' It's our lives. It's what I've been inspired to be since I was 5 years old,'' Johnson said. ''The fear and the risk involved, of course they are there. You don't want to be ignorant about it, you pay attention. But you're willing to take that risk."
Johnson now takes the risk while wearing the Head And Neck Support (HANS) device, the restraint system that its makers say reduces the risk of massive head injuries like the ones that killed Earnhardt.
Johnson estimated that 40% of other stock car drivers wear the HANS, too.
"I don't have any reservations about the HANS as far as the way it fits and the way it wears in the car," Michael Waltrip said Saturday morning before the final practice for Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. "I haven't hit anything yet with it on, but it sure does feel safe when you have it on.
"I didn't have any problem with it," he continued. "I actually like it a lot. I like it better than without it. I put it on and I loved it. And I've had it on every time I've been in the car since [testing with it in Atlanta last week]."
"I just feel like we owe it to our families, we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to each other to do whatever we can do," Waltrip said. "If the research shows that that thing will make it safer, then we've at least got to try it and give it a whirl. And if you put it on and it doesn't work ... I just don't understand it. To me, it's perfect."
"I've got it close," Jeff Gordon said, "but it's obviously not as comfortable [driving with it] as without it. But it's good enough, I think, to race it."
"I'm comfortable with being left to my own on a lot of safety issues. There are a lot of people that pay enough attention to what's going on inside the car. But for one thing, I can't imagine myself going down the highway on a motorcycle without a helmet on, like you see a lot of people do. I think helmets are a good thing.
"So, I guess, sometimes people have to say, 'We need to do this, and if it's not done you're not going to be able to practice.' I think the modern day race driver is of the caliber that we know what we need to be doing.
"But I think if NASCAR sees enough variations in what you would think is a common sense thing they need to step in and say 'Let's get it right.' "
"I want to wear something, but I haven't found anything yet that I'm comfortable with," he said. "It's not that I don't want to wear it, and I'm not being bullheaded about this, but there is nothing right now that I'm comfortable wearing inside the race car."
"I ran one lap, pulled in and bailed out of the car because I felt like I was getting trapped inside the car," he said. "It was because of my own anxiety that comes from being claustrophobic. That's how the HANS device makes me feel."
"If I have a helmet device that doesn't fit properly or isn't comfortable, then how comfortable am I going to be six inches from guys who are on all four corners of my race car?" he asked.