What later became an interesting twist in DelGrosso’s story was the fact that prior to the season, he was fitted for and started using a head and neck restraint system.
His restraint system of choice was the NecksGen restraint — a system where the driver’s helmet is tethered to a device that fits around the back of the neck and left and right shoulders, held in place by the shoulder belts in his race car.
The idea with the NecksGen device is that if the driver’s head and neck are held in a neutral position and only move in sync with the shoulders during a crash, the head cannot snap forward and recoil back at high rates of speed, avoiding potential injury as a result.
It is those injuries that can be fatal, as they are similar to the injury that took the life of Dale Earnhardt in 2001 at the end of the Daytona 500.
After viewing the in-car GoPro footage of his crash and seeing that his head and neck moved along with his shoulders in a neutral position, DelGrosso is convinced that his NecksGen saved his life in this vicious crash.
“I feel confident that this crash could have taken my life if we didn’t have the safety features built into the car or the safety equipment I was wearing that night,” he explained.
The safety inspectors from NecksGen tend to agree as well. Due to such a heavy collision, DelGrosso sent his NecksGen back to the factory for a safety inspection. That’s where the safety equipment company discovered that the tether showed that it had stretched to the level of needing replacement.
They also discovered that the metal clips on DelGrosso’s helmet that attach the helmet and tether to the NecksGen unit on his shoulders had been bent in the crash.
“We were really surprised to hear of their findings and they further proved to us that this device is needed by every race, no matter what division you race in,” DelGrosso said. “Our team competes in one of the lower divisions in the sport, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to skimp on safety equipment.”
Much cheaper versions of this kind of safety equipment have been used for decades, in the form of simple, foam-filled neck braces that go around the driver’s neck to provide cushioning in a crash. But countless studies show that this technology is antiquated and will not save a driver’s life in a serious crash.
DelGrosso is still surprised to see headline division racers using neck braces.
“Those guys are going way faster than my car does and it blows my mind that they’re using technology that is decades old and has been studied to show they will not help you in a serious crash,” he said. “The time is now for drivers to start taking their safety into their own hands.”
Another safety add-on that has been introduced in recent years, to help reduce the likelihood of spinal injuries like DelGrosso suffered, is the ‘Crash Pad.’ This pad is designed to be placed under the driver’s seat cover, cushioning the impact of crashes where the vehicle comes down hard on the ground and transfers energy up through the frame and seat.
DelGrosso plans to look into securing a crash pad to use along with his NecksGen device before racing on in 2018.
“If it takes me being injured for even one racer to improve their safety program, it will be worth what we’ve gone through,” he emphasized. “But this change needs to happen across the board.”
About the Writer
Steven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, airing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.
The 31-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also entering his second season as the full-time announcer and media director for Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.
In addition, Ovens was formerly the announcer and media director for Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., serving in that capacity in both 2015 and 2016.
Email Steve at: [email protected]
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