Seat belts face new standards

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2002

HAMPTON, Ga. -- NASCAR took its requirements for better seat belts a step further by adding three requirements in time for this week's MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Three months after requiring teams to install seat belts according to manufacturer's specifications, the sanctioning body extended the mandate:

Teams must use one of two approved latching systems.

A belt must extend straight from its mount and through the guide in the seat.

The manufacturer's label can't be sewn where it can pull through an adjuster.

The rule change is part of the ongoing work at NASCAR's research and development center in Conover, N.C. A study of the restraint system was ordered immediately after the investigation into the racing death of Dale Earnhardt ended in August.

The Earnhardt investigation revealed the driver's left lap belt broke when the car hit the fourth-turn wall on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The driver was thrown against the steering wheel, where he suffered a blow to the base of his skull as well as several broken bones.

The belt was mounted behind the guide slot in the seat, and the bending of the belt webbing through the guide slot caused the restraint system to bunch up and tear a process known as ''dumping.''

Belts now must extend from the floor mount and through the guide slot without bending.

CHEVY CONCERNS: Chevrolet is lobbying for a new nose for its Monte Carlo.

With only one top-five finish in the first three races, General Motors said it needs help, or it can't compete against the Fords and Dodges.

''Anyone who watched the race (last week at Las Vegas) saw that Chevrolets weren't competitive,'' said Doug Du chardt, NASCAR's group manager for General Motors Racing. ''If NASCAR wants to continue to have Chevy drivers run at the back, then they won't change anything.''

Chevrolet said concessions made to Dodge and Ford in the past year have proven to be too much help. The front bumper for Dodge and Ford are an inch longer than they were this time last year. That extra extension provides more downforce for the front wheels and makes them quicker in the turns.

Now Chevrolet wants a new nose, too. Jim Hunter, a NASCAR vice president, said the sanctioning body is aware Chevrolet has yet to be competitive this year against the Fords and Dodges, which have combined to win all three races.

At Las Vegas, Chevrolet drivers led eight of 267 laps.

Reach Don Coble at

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