Dr. Robert Hubbard, who made major advances in motorsports safety with the invention of the HANS device, died Tuesday.
Hubbard’s passing was announced on the HANS website, which read: “Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends. Bob’s invention truly changed the world of auto racing safety and he was a kind hearted person who would help anyone in need. He will be missed greatly.”
Hubbard’s Head and Neck Support (HANS) system was a breakthrough in minimizing the risk of whip-like head and neck movement in the event of a crash. Hubbard, a professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State University, developed the safety restraint after discussions with Jim Downing, his brother-in-law and an accomplished sports-car racer.
“Dr. Robert Hubbard’s contribution to NASCAR safety remains unrivaled,” said John Patalak, NASCAR senior director, safety engineering. “In helping develop the HANS device, Hubbard sparked a safety evolution that continues to this day. His ground-breaking work has elevated driver safety to unprecedented levels. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Dr. Hubbard, a giant in motorsports safety.”
NASCAR mandated the use of the HANS device (or the similar Hutchens device) in October 2001. NASCAR drivers showed their appreciation for Hubbard’s work through social media upon learning of his passing:
I surely appreciate Dr. Hubbard?s innovations and pursuit to improve safety. https://t.co/DGwvlvK9of
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 6, 2019
R.I.P Dr. Hubbard: Your persistence and continued drive, along with Mr. Downing, paved the way into a new corridor of safety all future generations will enjoy. Thank you for your contributions to Motorsports. https://t.co/U448c5PnJQ
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) February 6, 2019