Originally created 03/09/02

NASCAR issues new seat belt mandate



HAMPTON, Ga. -- The attempt to make NASCAR racing safer following Dale Earnhardt's death led to a new rule regarding the placement of seat belts in the car.

Shoulder belts must be mounted to a specific portion of the roll cage behind the driver. In another change this week, the length adjusters on lap belts must be either at the point where the belt connects to the frame or where it latches with the other belts.

The second change should help prevent the belt passing through the adjuster at an angle, called "dumping." An investigation into Earnhardt's fatal crash at Daytona last year said dumping contributed to a tear in his left lap belt during the wreck.

"We've been working with the competitors all along toward this direction, but now we've got the data to back it up," Winston Cup Series director John Darby said Friday. "We realized some of the changes were more important, so we put it in a bulletin."

Bryant Frazier, crew chief for Buckshot Jones, applauded NASCAR's work.

"They've done so much work to help keep these drivers safe," Frazier said. "I think more and more, you'll see guys walk away without getting hurt from accidents that would have broken their shoulder or hurt their ribs a couple of years ago."

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BODINE UPDATE: Owner/driver Brett Bodine landed a sponsor for Sunday's race when Atlanta-based Hooters Restaurants signed a one-race deal.

Hooters chief executive officer Bob Brooks, a longtime friend of Bodine's, agreed Thursday night to sponsor the car. The timing left Bodine's team with little time to put the company's logo on the car, which was plain white with only minor sponsors. He qualified without the decals.

"Mr. Brooks and I have been friends for a while, so I called him and asked him for his help here, since this is where Hooters is based," Bodine said. "We need all the help we can get."

The sponsorship news wasn't so good for Bodine's younger brother, Todd, who's without a ride this week. His team lost sponsor Kmart after the retail giant filed for bankruptcy and decided not to enter.

His teammate, Joe Nemechek, qualified 27th in an unsponsored Ford.

"I'm just here to support Joe," Todd Bodine said. "Standing here in the garage is not tough, but getting on top of the truck and watching the cars practice, that's when it gets hard."

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NEW HALL OF FAME: Pioneer NASCAR team owner Raymond Parks will be the first inductee in the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, which will open May 11.

Parks was born in Dawsonville, the location of the hall. He won the first NASCAR championship in 1949 with driver Red Byron. Parks also fielded cars for drivers Lloyd Seay, Fonty and Bob Block and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

"I remember he tore the car all to pieces," Parks said of France. "Fortunately, he didn't get hurt."

Dan Elliott, also from Dawsonville and the brother of current NASCAR driver Bill Elliott, serves as marketing director for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

"It's certainly appropriate that Raymond Parks is the first member of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame," Elliott said. "He is the beginning of NASCAR."

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SPARK PLUGS: Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick announced plans to run three Busch Series events later this season for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick's first start will be April 6 at Texas Motor Speedway. ... Jeff Turner was named general manager of Hendrick Motorsports and will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. The team fields four Winston Cup cars and two in the Busch Series. ... Chad Blount won the pole for Saturday's ARCA Series Pork The Other White Meat 400. Defending series champ Frank Kimmel qualified second.