One of the good guys in this business is Jonathan Ingram, who’s been covering motorsports for more than four decades now, with a special concentration on racing’s engineering and technological grounding. Last year, Jonathan authored CRASH, the story of the HANS device that restrains the upper body and spine of racing drivers during high-g impacts. The Head And Neck System, as it’s formally known, has saved the lives of countless racers since its widespead adoption that followed the death of Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500, including some of its early skeptics and detractors. The HANS story makes clear that racing engineers can achieve benefits that go beyond the sport’s immediate outcomes. As a result, Jonathan is getting some impressive recognition.
The HANS device was created by five-time IMSA champion Jim Downing and his late brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Hubbard. Jonathan’s book recounts their struggles, and the task of getting racers to accept the value of their research, in intimate detail. The Smithsonian Institution has now selected the book for listing in the library of its National Museum of American History. It tells of racing’s long-held position that safety advances were intended to protect the paying spectator, not drivers, until the cataclysmic death of NASCAR’s greatest icon forced driver’s, and others, to accept that basilar skull fractures were indeed preventable through technology. Despite its biomedical subject matter, this is an excellent book that’s a proper fit in any modern racing library. You can order CRASH here, where you’ll find a number of other works by the author, a couple of them about that Earnhardt guy.