The Loud Pedal: Understanding HANS Devices

One of the most significant safety items to be developed for drivers in all forms of motor sports is the HANS device.  Also known as a head restraint, this device supports the head and neck and reduces injuries to the skull and brain.


The history of the HANS starts back in the early 1980’s.  The device was developed by biomechanical engineering professor Dr. Robert Hubbard along with his brother-in-law, Jim Downing who was involved in road racing.  After the death of a mutual friend, the two started to analyze what could be done to protect drivers from one of the biggest dangers of sudden stops and impacts, the basilar skull fracture.


Sadly, the wide-spread acceptance and use of the HANS in motor sports did not increase dramatically until after the much publicized death of NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt in 2001.  His tragedy along with three others that year finally convinced several organizations of the need to protect drivers from these injuries.  NHRA racers began using the HANS in 1996 but it was not made mandatory until 2004 for the Pro ranks.


To understand how the HANS protects drivers we can look at the physics involved in an impact.  In an article dated January 2012 Car and Driver Magazine stated, “With only a neck to restrain it, a 15 pound helmeted head lunges forward at 107 g during a 40-g head-on collision.”  In essence the body is restrained by seat belts but the head will whip forward and side to side with load, tension and shear in an impact.  Gravitational force or “g” force is the measurement of acceleration that causes weight. An example of the effect of negative g forces, a drag racer traveling at 225mph who deploys the parachutes will be exposed to negative 3 or 4 g’s.  Imagine what 40 negative g’s would be on a body.


The key in Hubbard’s research and design of the HANS was finding a way to keep the head and neck motion aligned with the torso.  This is done by outfitting the helmet with anchors using threaded inserts that are bonded directly inside the helmet shell.  Quick Click anchors are then snapped over the post insert.  Fabric tethers are added to give the driver access to unlatch the device after their run.  The device itself is made of carbon fiber and shaped like a U.  It sits on the driver’s shoulders behind the nape of the neck.

tether pic

Hans attached to helmet pic

When the driver is seated in the car the shoulder straps of the seat belts will go over the device and it is secured underneath the straps.  The quick clicks are snapped into the helmet anchors and the driver is now properly secured.

quick clicks

Wearing the HANS does take some getting used to.  Its purpose is to restrain head and neck movement so you will not be able to make some of the same kind of movements you did without it.  However, it is worth the effort and after using the device many drivers state they would never go without one.  There are a couple of different designs available so finding one that fits and feels comfortable should be easy to do.  Your existing helmet can be outfitted with the anchors and your HANS will be SFI certified 38.1 which is the standard now.  A recertification is required every five years.


From my own experience, I’ve worn a HANS for many years because I felt it made complete sense and I wanted to acclimate myself to it before going faster.  We can be proactive in our own safety and thankfully, through the efforts of Dr. Hubbard we can benefit from the outstanding protection of the HANS device.  Countless drivers have been saved from injury with this vital safety item and its benefits of keeping you safe in the driving seat are priceless. Good luck, be safe and have fun out there!

By Yvonne Lucas











The Loud Pedal: Driver Safety

As a huge advocate for driver safety, I look forward to highlighting some of the important topics facing drivers in the exciting world of drag racing.  Yes, racing can be dangerous.  What our focus should be on is that racing is about risk management and good competition in a controlled environment.  We must navigate the racing world in the most intelligent and safest means possible and the key to that is educating ourselves.  Here are five quick basics to start with in order to help you prepare for both learning and success in the driver’s seat.


1)     Lose the need to impress others. This is the #1 piece of advice I give anyone who wants to race or who wants to step up into a faster class. I can’t stress this enough.  Our job as drivers is to handle our race cars and the racing environment with the serious attention it requires.  By keeping your head and your emotions intact, you can avoid a large percentage of bad situations behind the wheel of a race car. In other words, don’t play hero. Keep the ego in check and the body will stay safe.


2)     You must adhere to all safety rules.  You must be properly outfitted.  This means you have the proper equipment starting with the basics of a good helmet, fire jacket and pants, HANS device, gloves and shoes.  The faster you go the more safety equipment you will need.  If you do not have the proper driving gear, you’re not ready to race.  It’s as simple as that.  Buy the best quality items you can and keep track of the SFI certification dates.  You are your own best advocate for your safety.  Familiarize yourself with the NHRA and IHRA rulebooks and keep up on all rule changes pertaining to your class. (I’ll talk about HANS devices and pour in seats in a later post.)

330_2009 (1)-500


3)     Start with a solid foundation.  Learn the layout of any track you go to.  This means the pit areas, which side the return road is on, what the shutdown area looks like and what safety services are present during any given race day.  Understanding how the track is run and what classes will race there can also help you to know what to expect.  It’s a good idea to spend some time as a spectator.  This is especially important if you are attending an event at a facility that you’ve never been to before.  All tracks have their differences and quirks.  Understand the track surface and any possible “trouble” spots such as dips, bumps and how wide or narrow the groove is.  Get to know the lay of the land before attempting any passes down the track.



4)     Be mindful of others.  When a racing incident occurs, it’s not just the driver who is at risk.  Other competitors, safety crews, crew members and track personnel can also be put in harms way.  We rely on each other to do our part to make every effort for safety in the racing environment which means paying attention in all ways to contribute to the atmosphere of safety at all times.  It’s each racer’s job to make sure their vehicle will pass tech and adheres to all safety rules.


5)     Be a driver who is always willing to learn.  I believe what classifies a good driver is one who has good instincts and is willing to practice skill-building.  While there are a few people born with some natural ability, the truth is that nature plays only a small part in what makes a skilled driver.  Developing good habits in the driver’s seat are largely learned skills.  There is no substitute for seat time and that is where you will gain your best experiences.  Be willing to ask questions and listen.  You don’t have to be mechanically inclined but having a good working knowledge of the basics of your engine and transmission can also help you.  It takes courage to ask questions but the best thing about drag racing is the people and you will find many willing to help.


In the 30 years I’ve been involved in drag racing our sport has made many strides toward safety.  This is the key to the longevity of our sport.  Every step forward in speed requires continued and focused effort in safety.  Good luck, be safe and have fun out there!

By Yvonne Lucas

Photos by: Paul Grant and Robert Fedyk



Does Deep Staging Give You An Advantage?


For many years, I raced with the Ontario Street Car Association‘s Index and Comp classes and more recently with the Pro Tree Racing Association in their Index and Comp classes. In both series, a pro tree was used and deep staging was permitted.

Whether I tried to or not, deep was where I always found myself. My car is heavy (3000lbs) and has stock suspension. I found that I could consistently cut a good light when I just barely turned off the pre-stage light,  a.k.a. deep staging. In 2015 I started racing with the Renegade Racing Association, here I encountered my first ‘No Deep Staging’ rule. Suddenly I had a problem. I was no longer killer on the tree.

Rolling into the Pre-Stage Beam.

As any racer knows, a race can be won or lost on the starting line, it’s not always a matter of who crosses the finish line first. We tried a lot of things to make my car react quickly without deep staging. We changed the front tires, changed the converter, bought a Leash Boost controller, all at an increased cost to my race program. Sometimes it worked and sometimes didn’t (more often didn’t). It was a very frustrating year for me. My car just isn’t set up to shallow stage, it’s very difficult if not impossible to cut a good light, especially on a pro tree.

Never hearing a valid reason why the rule exists, I did a little research (called the NHRA), and discovered that the rule set came from ‘back in the day’ when the Super Gas Class was created although I’m not even sure that they measured reaction time ‘back in the day’.  I was told two different reasons by two different officials. First that the rule was arbitrarily decided on by the racers and second that the rule was originally created to save time on the starting line. This was before the advent of Autostart and it has to this day remained a rule for 3 classes: Super Gas/Super Stock/Super Street.

The ‘No Deep Staging’ rule has somehow been copied over and over again by various series since, who were no doubt looking for rules for their own series’, most notably a 9.90 index class. It sounds like a real thing, a rule, ‘No Deep Staging!’. Somehow you just go with the rules, they are obviously there for a reason, right?  Maybe not.  In my opinion, the rule actually creates an unfair disadvantage. Let me explain why…..

First, you have to understand how the starting line works. A drag race begins with what most racers affectionately call a Christmas Tree. The lights on the tree are activated by sensors, or beams, which are usually contained in a box on the ground.


The Pre-Stage bulbs come on when your front wheel rolls into the Pre-Stage beam.

Roll a little farther and the Stage light is activated, by the Stage beam. At this point, you should be ready to race. Your wheel will be blocking both beams so both the Pre-Stage and Stage lights will be on.

Farther ahead of that there is sometimes a third beam known as a Guard beam. The Guard beam is designed to trigger a red light start if it is activated while the Stage beam is activated.

Note: A Guard beam’s job is to eliminate any unfair advantage by a racer who has a part hanging down under the front of the car. This is where the rule “4:5 GROUND CLEARANCE Minimum 3 inches from front of car to 12 inches behind centreline of front axle” comes into play. Something hanging down could block the Pre-stage or Stage beams and give a racer an unfair ‘rolling start’ before the ET clock starts. If there is no Guard Beam, moving out of the Stage Beam before the light turns green will trigger a red light.


Deep staging occurs when the Pre-Stage light goes out, but your tire has not yet activated the Guard Beam, or gone past the Stage beam. It can be a dangerous place to be, so close to that Guard Beam. Your risk of red lighting is greatly increased. Being deep staged will also cause a slower ET and slower 60′ time, usually by a tenth of a second. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is necessary if your car is set up a certain way.

Knowing that ‘reaction time is everything‘ in Drag Racing, any racer should be aware of the factors that can influence their reaction time. A very important one of these is rollout.

Rollout is an often misunderstood concept. It has nothing to do with distance.  It is actually a measure of time. It begins when a driver initiates leaving (turning off the stage light), and stops when the car leaves the starting line, or breaks the Guard beam which starts the ET time clock. (Not every track has a Guard beam).

So how does rollout affect reaction time? More rollout theoretically will increase your reaction time. Less rollout will theoretically decrease your reaction time because it allows you to start the ET clock sooner.

Five factors that you as a racer have control over that will affect your rollout are: the weight of your vehicle, whether you shallow or deep stage, clutch/converter slippage,  launch RPM, and front tire diameter/pressure. Modifying any of these factors can change your rollout.


Race track staff can also cause variability in rollout by how high they set the beams, and with track prep. If the beams are set low, rollout is decreased and it would be easier to red-light. If they are set high, the rollout is increased and the opposite is true. If there is a lack of traction and you spin your tires, the rollout will also be longer.

It really depends on your car as to whether or not you will shallow or deep stage. For example, a full chassis back-halfed car would likely shallow stage, a heavy car with stock suspension will likely need to deep stage in order to be competitive. In a way how you stage, shallow or deep, creates ‘reaction time parity’ on the starting line in cars with differing set-ups.

The only tried and true way to consistently win races is to be consistent, and staging is a big part of that. Whether you deep stage or shallow stage, you should do it the same every time.

Does deep staging give you an advantage? I think not! I believe the ‘No Deep Staging’ rule should be abolished from all classes of drag racing. In the faster classes surely no-one would even need to do it. But not allowing racers the option of deep staging in reality creates an unfair disadvantage. In this day and age we are surely past the point of using the reason ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ And if not all classes, at least the Renegade Racing Association’s 9.90 Index!














The Sisters In Speed website will soon have a new racer! Who that is will depend on who is the first to return her completed Driver Profile and photographs!

Will it be Kristina Lawyer, a Mechanical Engineering professor from Boonville Indiana?  Maybe it’s Pamela ‘Miss Behavin’ Koulaib a Strategic Planning Manager from Luskville Quebec? Maybe it will be Renegade Racer Wanda Johnson? Theres no way to know really. One thing is sure, they all share a love of the sport, and you’re gonna know a lot more about them soon!


I’m Sue Cooper, and this is my car. I started the website in 2010, it was a school project. Yep I got an ‘A’!

Since then it has grown, it seems female racers have a unique story to tell. Being a female in a male dominated sport is nothing new. Being the fastest woman on Drag Radials is! Or at least it was when Amanda Long a.k.a. Puddin’ was the first woman to make a 7 second pass on drag radials in her 2005 Mustang!

First woman to make a 7 second pass on Radials, Amanda Long

Years later our Sister In Speed Karri Anne Beebe would follow in Puddin’s footsteps, or should I say groove, becoming Milan Dragway’s 2013 Drag Radial Champion and boasting a quarter mile time of 7.67 @ 184 MPH! Like our website says, We May Be Fast, but We’ll Never Be Easy (to beat, that is!)!

2013 Milan Dragway Drag Radial Champion Karri Anne Beebe

Many of us are Champions, it may be because we have something to prove, maybe it’s knowing that all of her Sisters are cheering for her, or it could just be that we’re actually really great competitors! Whatever the reason, I think we all make great additions to the Drag Racing scene! Don’t believe me? Just go up to any Sister In Speed and ask her about her car, she’s likely to give you an earful, she might even let you sit in her car! Take your wife or daughter to the track and see who she cheers for!

2015 Shannonville Super Pro Champion Becky Ray Gauthier

The 2016 race season is almost upon us, and surely more championships will be won by Sisters In Speed!  Who is your favourite?  Who do you think will win a championship? Most importantly, who will be the next Sister In Speed? We hope that you will go to our website and read about us and that you will bookmark this blog so you can keep up with all of our adventures! We look forward to seeing everyone at the track!