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Dale Earnhardt was known for taking risks. He kept it old-school -- and many respected him for it. But after his death at the Daytona 500 in 2001, NASCAR officials decided that driver safety was more important than preference. In 2002, it mandated the use of a head and neck support (HANS) device to prevent a driver's unrestrained head from moving forward during a front-on collision while their body remained strapped to their seat.
According to Thomas Gideon, senior director of Safety, Research & Development of NASCAR, about six drivers were wearing a HANS device in the Daytona 500 when Dale Earnhardt crashed. That day was a turning point in the way the sport looked at the once laughed-at device.
"There was a major change in the way everybody looked at what they did," he said.