Firestone 600 - Practice

IndyCar working to reduce hand/wrist injuries among drivers


INDYCAR has been busy developing several mechanisms with the goal to reduce the amount of hand and wrist injuries among its drivers.

Among the possibilities are a new steering damper, a thumb/wrist brace adapted from motocross racing, and energy-absorbing material for steering wheels.

During the recent major test session at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, James Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda featured a hydraulic damper that is designed to counteract the transfer of energy to the driver’s hands in a crash.

The damper, which would work in concert with the deformation of suspension parts to disperse the energy, was first tested last month by Charlie Kimball during a Chip Ganassi Racing test session at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway.

Keeping an eye on the development is one of Kimball’s teammates, Ryan Briscoe, who broke his wrist in a crash during last year’s Toronto doubleheader.

“…The steering damper might be the best option; you have wheel-to-wheel contact or impact [with walls on some road/street circuits or the SAFER Barrier on ovals] and nothing bends on the race car and you feel all that shock comes through the steering wheel,” Briscoe said recently.

The aforementioned brace may also help in incidents where the steering wheel hits a driver’s wrist after the car makes initial impact with the wall.

Motorsports safety expert and INDYCAR consultant Dr. Terry Trammell is working with several manufacturers to try and create a brace for drivers that is light and flexible enough to let them push the buttons on the wheel, but also strong enough to protect in a crash.

“The thumb is the most frequently injured part of the hand, and designing a brace that keeps the thumb at normal excursion but not any further has been a challenge,” said Trammell.

Meanwhile, the sanctioning body recently tested each driver’s grip strength to help push development of materials for covering the steering wheel.

“As they grip the steering wheel, they would still have that connection to the racetrack but any loading beyond that the material would provide a cushion,” said INDYCAR director of engineering/safety Jeff Horton.

“We could tune that foam to whatever grip strength wanted. It’s just another piece in the chain to mitigate the forces coming back through the steering wheel.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.