One piece of specialty racecar driving equipment is getting a lot of credit for saving Ryan Newman's life: the HANS device. Newman was in a horrific crash at the Daytona 500 last weekend, and many fans feared the worst. Thanks in part to the HANS device, however, Newman is already back on his feet.
Newman was in the lead in the last lap of the Daytona 500 when another car bumped his, causing him to spin out and roll over on the track. He was then struck by another driver, sending his car careening into the air, flipping over and catching fire.
Newman was pulled from the wreckage by medics and rushed to the Halifax Medical Center, and his condition remained unknown to fans for quite some time. They were relieved when, nearly 48 hours later, they saw pictures of Newman standing on his own two feet in the hospital. Shortly after that, he walked out unaided.
According to a report by Crain's Detroit Business, the HANS device played a big part in that speedy recovery. The Head and Neck Support device was patented in 1987 by inventor Robert Hubbard, and is now required in most motor racing sports. NASCAR drivers like Newman are almost always wearing them during big events like this.
The device greatly reduces the risk of injuries to the head, neck and skull in a car crash. It works by wrapping tightly around the back of the driver's lower head and neck, then securing over the chest. The HANS attaches to the driver's helmet, but not the seat itself.
"Hubbard and Downing recognized that racers were being killed because their torsos were restrained but their heads were not," reads an explanation on the Michigan State University website. "Although unknown at the time, this has been the mechanism of basilar skull fractures, the most common cause of racers' deaths."
The HANS device is credited with saving many drivers' lives over the years, including Newman last week. It is so central to the sport of motor racing now that Hubbard was inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame in 2014. Hubbard passed away last year at the age of 75.
Most motor racing and motor sport organizers reportedly made HANS devices a requirement in 2001, after the death of Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt died in a crash at the Daytona 500 that year, one that fans thought was eerily similar to Newman's crash last week. Earnhardt was not wearing a HANS device, but after his passing, NASCAR, monster truck driving and other federations made the devices a must-have.