News & Media

Chassis upgrades highlight 2013 safety changes

December 16, 2012, Mark Aumann,

For most fans, the beauty of the redesigned 2013 Cup chassis may only be skin deep. But for Tom Gideon, director of safety at NASCAR's research and development center, there's more there than meets the eye.

The "car of tomorrow," introduced in 2007 and used for the past five seasons, was designed to incorporate a number of key safety features offering additional protection to the driver in the event of accident or fire. From that standpoint, the chassis achieved its goals.

But manufacturers wanted unique and individual design cues brought back, so beginning with the 2013 Daytona 500, new body styles that resemble current production cars will be in place. So NASCAR decided to meld form and function. The new chassis may look differently on the track, but the same strident safety features will remain, according to Gideon.

Speaking at the International Motorsports Industry Show's safety and technical conference at Indianapolis earlier this month, Gideon said a number of new safety upgrades have been approved, not only for Cup but the other two national series as well.

"For the Nationwide and Sprint Cup cars, we've added a reinforced roof structure -- another rollbar," Gideon said. "We've added rear spring tethers to all the national series cars. We've added a reinforced windshield for Cup and Nationwide cars at tracks above two miles in length and Trucks on superspeedways."

Another key safety initiative involves the window netting that keeps the driver's arms and head inside the car in case of a side impact or rollover accident, something that's been required equipment since the early 1970s. Gideon said testing showed improvements could be made to how the nets are connected to the car.

"We've also reinforced the window nets in all the national series," Gideon said. "The hardware that attaches the window net to the chassis -- we did some testing to validate it and we found that it's far stronger than the standard unit that's out there now.

"The problem was not the net. The net had plenty of strength. It was the hardware that was holding it in. So that's been improved."

The theme of this year's conference was "keeping safety as a mindset." It's been said that safety is an evolutionary process, one that needs to be reassessed and addressed continually. Gideon said the new chassis achieves that by not only looking racier, but in containing all of NASCAR's state-of-the-art safety initiatives.

"We're looking forward to a great year and we're real proud of those achievements," Gideon said.