Go engineering! I'm amazed this driver wasn't hamburger meat after this Indy 500 crash!

More engineering than strictly sports related so I’m putting it here

Typical headline - “Jay Howard, Scott Dixon Walk Away From Massive, Devastating Wreck” so I’m thinking there will be some crunch in the video but… Holy Shit! I’m still not clear on why this guy was not dead given the impacts that roll cage took.

Go engineers! link below - If you do not want to watch the whole 4 minute video go to 2:00 minutes in for the money shot.

Jay Howard, Scott Dixon Walk Away From Massive, Devastating Wreck"

Oh the cockpit cage is some awesome engineering no doubt but that man has a one on one with God, one of the upside down wall landings appears to be just inches from being his head instead, and that would have ended things right quick.

I am pretty sure if i pause the playback, i can see his ass teeth biting into the seat.

I didn’t click the link, but does that have the on-board shot as well? That was pretty amazing! It shows the white car zipping underneath Dixon’s car as it takes to the air.

The thing I found interesting on one of the replays… the car hasn’t even stopped bouncing yet and two of the emergency vehicles are already moving out. That’s some quick response!

But yeah… a crash like that and both drivers walk away pretty much unassisted. That’s just amazing.

Both drivers are saved - perhaps more than once - by the fact that their heads weren’t the first things to make contact with hard objects (no gimme given that their heads are exposed by design); great engineering for that cockpit cage/shell.

The driver cell on modern racing cars is so good these days that what kills drivers is one of a two things - penetration by random pieces of debris, or a very sudden stop.

I guess the first thing is pretty much in the lap of the gods.

The second thing is where spectacle often has an inverse relationship to danger. Massive flying rollovers like Dixon’s produce amazing spectacle that looks deathly to the layperson, but the reality is that Dixon went from full speed to stopped relatively slowly. It’s when the car goes from full speed straight into a wall and just stops that the driver is in most danger.

Which means that we could conceivably have a car sport which maximizes the spectacle and minimizes the danger.

Figure crashing.

You first, Michael!

It exists. There is this thing called “skid-plate racing” or something like that, where cars go out on a figure eight course and its basically a running demolition derby.

They also do it with trailers. Drivers hook up a trailer and run the course and whoever?


Seems to be a “crowd favorite” kind of thing. Seen it on the picture box.

Sorry. Been drinkin’.

Like the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt. It looked minor, but Earnhardt decelerated enough to give himself a basal skull fracture.

The thing that amazes me about modern Indy-car tubs, vs yesteryear, is that while Dixon may have survived a similar crash in an 80’s Indy-car, he probably would have had horrific foot and leg injuries. Just ask Rick Mears. This crash, though, he walked away.

Amazing engineering.

Yeah, not to be morbid, but I never thought the Earnhardt crash looked that bad. The car is drifting up the banking, hits the wall, and then continues to slide along it. It’s not like he went from full speed to a dead stop. I’ve always wondered if it was just a uniquely bad angle, thrown forward against his belts, rather than sideways into the seat padding. And I know the HANS device was not required at that time.

Also modern helmets are really protective. I recall seeing a picture of one of their helmets after a crash where the car flipped and the driver’s head was scraped against the pavement for a good ways. The helmet had been sanded flat on one side, like somebody had cut a huge chunk off with a giant blade; you could see the internal layers of material and so forth.

The driver survived, but it was easy to see how with a less durable helmet he wouldn’t have had a head anymore.

I think it’s deceptive. He loses almost all forward speed, very suddenly. His car keeps sliding along, but most of its speed was lost.

Dixon’s had a hell of a week. Pole position, robbed at gunpoint and then that?

I don’t see it that way. You can think of his velocity as the sum of two vectors, parallel to the track, and perpendicular. The perpendicular goes to zero when the car hits the wall. But the parallel velocity doesn’t really change with the impact, except to continue scrubbing off speed by sliding long the wall and the tires skidding on the track.

Obviously, this was an impact, and I really hope I never have to experience anything like it. But I would be curious to see an engineering/physics analysis of it. How many G’s did he experience, would the car have absorbed more energy if it had hit with a corner rather than head-on, that sort of thing. Earnhardt’s car collides with another and they hit the wall together; I looked it up, and that driver wasn’t injured.

Exactly. And because he had turned up the track the vector perpendicular was large. But the delta of that component towards pretty much zero was extremely rapid.

But watch the other car; it is going forward only and only hits Earnhardt hard, and strikes the wall a glancing blow, so it would only have slowed a relatively small amount. Earnhardt however hit with a large component of velocity perpendicular to the wall, all of which was lost near to instantly, because large concrete walls don’t give. The other car had pretty much only velocity parallel to the wall, and so didn’t hit the wall with much force.

Where he hit the wall, the car was crushed in pretty much all the way to the cockpit capsule; he used up ALL of his protective margin. He was probably helped by the track wall, which is suspension-mounted to help provide more gentle decel when a car hits it.

It was also a lucky impact orientation: a little more tumbling, and it might well have been his helmet hitting the wall before anything else, which would have killed him.

One camera angle shows a photographer behind the wall/fence who barely escaped serious injury; see here at 4:49.

The two cars are touching when they hit the wall. Earnhardt’s car is pointing toward the wall, and Schrader’s (#36) is parallel to the wall, but their velocities look pretty close to the same to me. There’s a wikipedia page on the accident that mentions an angle of impact with the wall of 13.6 degrees. Not a glancing blow, exactly; just seems like I’ve seen harder impacts that drivers walked away from.

The following is contributed as added information, and not an attempt to contradict anything mentioned by previous posters.

There have been, at times, some disagreements about the various contributing factors in Dale Earnhardt’s fatal clash.

As I remember, and as generally supported by looking over a few relevant articles from the time (found by searching on “dale Earnhardt cause of death”), the following bits are generally accepted:

–The autopsy reported the cause of death as blunt-force trauma to the head and neck. Earnhardt had a sizable skull fracture around the base of his skull that also extended to the sides of his skull. He had internal bleeding at the base of his brain, and brain swelling. He also had 8 broken ribs, a broken breastbone, and a broken left ankle. He also had various body contusions, partially collapsed lungs, and blood in his ears and chest. Emergency crews reported no pulse or signs of life when they arrived at the scene.

–The car steering wheel, with a rigid metal core, was bent on the right side from the impact of Earnhardt’s face/torso, and also dented near the bottom from the impact of the safety harness clasps.

–Earnhardt, as usual, was wearing an open-faced helmet, with no chin or face protection.

–Earnhardt used a driving position that required his seat to be mounted further back from the steering wheel than any other NASCAR driver at that time.

–Earnhardt had a reputation for being particular about how his safety harness (seat belts) were installed and fitted, and for requiring them to be installed in a custom way. However, there is no definitive evidence of how loose/tight his harness was before the incident, or that that variable had anything to do with the severity of his injuries.

–The safety harness was NOT installed the way the manufacturer specified it be installed.

–One of the first responders to the accident says that the belts were intact when he released the catches. NASCAR says one of the belts failed in the webbing (not at a junction with hardware) at some time during the accident. The harness manufacturer says if it failed during the accident, it is because it was improperly installed.

–As this was clearly a racing accident, the car was not handled/treated as a crime scene on a tv show, and thus a lot of questions never were and never will be resolved.

----NASCAR’s initial investigators said that Earnhardt had a good chance of surviving the crash had the belt not broken. One massive lawsuit (brought by the belt manufacturer and settled out of court) later, NASCAR quit saying that.

–As a result of a different lawsuit, an independent medical expert from Duke University, Dr. Barry Meyers, was engaged to study the death. He concluded the death was directly caused by Earnhardt’s head and neck snapping forward in and of itself, and was independent of the broken (or not) belt.

As mentioned by others, a lot of safety improvements were researched and implemented following this particular incident, mainly due to the overwhelming notoriety and popularity of Earnhardt and the resulting public outcry, especially after two NASCAR driver fatalities (Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty) the previous year caused by similar basal skull fractures after cars hit the wall.

Did he finish the race? I mean, he had one wheel still attached.