FOX8 breaks down biggest NASCAR safety improvements

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WELCOME, N.C. — FOX8 is breaking down the biggest safety improvements in NASCAR over the years following Ryan Newman’s fiery finish at the Daytona 500.

It’s all about being as stable as possible. Drivers are now now seated so tightly it’s like being in a cocoon. With little room to move, there is a greater chance to survive.

“It really is scary. You don’t ever want to see that,” said Andy Petree, VP of Competition at RCR Racing.

Crashes happen in all types of racing, and the Daytona 500 is known for them.

“You want to ride the crash down is what they say. You don’t want to have the car stop and then the body take any more of the energy,” Petree said.

Over the years, the racing industry has worked to improve safety technology.

“There’s extra things that’s added to the cars and things that we learn that make them safer and will no doubt be safer again after this one,” Petree said.

Foam panels, a head and neck support device and a collapsible steering wheel are some of the changes making a difference.

“You really want to be…constrained in the seat. You see the head restraints on the seat that really hold the head from moving much. You want that. You don’t want a lot of movement there in any kind of accident,” Petree said.

After Monday night’s crash, there is investigating to do. Ryan’s car is now at the NASCAR Research and Development Center.

“You go back and take the car apart. You look at what held up well, what can be better, the seat, the structure of the car, the way the bars are in it. The width of the roof has expanded some over the years,” Petree said.

Petree explained how each crash is a learning opportunity that can’t be simulated in a lab.

“There’s always going to be that one you never plan for, that you can’t recreate, and that’s how we learn from those because you go in there and you see in real time what actually worked well and what needs to be better,” Petree said.

This team has personal ties to Ryan and are praying for a quick recovery.

“Ryan having driven here at RCR for quite a few years, a lot of people care about him here, so we were concerned,” Petree said.

The racing community is sending well wishes to Ryan Newman as they monitor his progress.

You can post your thoughts and prayers on the FOX8 Facebook page.

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