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NHRA Issues Report On Fan Death

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 23 2010

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The NHRA on Tuesday released preliminary findings of its investigation regarding the tragic incident in Phoenix which took the life of a spectator.

The drag racing series also announced precautionary measures are being implemented.

The incident occurred at the Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in late February. During a Top Fuel run, the car of Antron Brown crashed. One of the dragster’s rear wheels came loose and skipped into a spectator area.

A female spectator was struck by the wheel and died.

According to a press released issued by the NHRA Tuesday, an investigation began immediately after the incident. Involved were the NHRA’s Technical Department, teams, and manufacturers.

The NHRA’s investigation was aided by Dr. Juan Herrera, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical egineering. The NHRA said that Dr. Herrera’s specialties include metallurgical engineering, failure analysis, vehicle dynamics and accident reconstruction.

Dr. Herrera reportedly worked with the Schumacher race team, as well as with the NHRA Tech Department.

The press release said that a “complex series of events” led to the incident in question.

“At this time it appears that very quickly after the car launched, it experienced the loss of the No. 5 cylinder, severe tire shake, and rapidly decreasing acceleration forces.  The left wheel then slipped slightly on the hub,” the NHRA release said.

“The wheel studs experienced a bending force and then failure, which resulted in the wheel becoming detached from the hub. The studs themselves had some slight but preexisting cracking that likely was not detectable upon visual examination. After the left tire/wheel assembly came off, the race car arced to the left and the tire/wheel assembly struck the left side of the car. This strike changed the wheel’s forward direction of travel and diverted it to the left, where it went off the left side of the track, and tragically struck the spectator.”

The NHRA release said that manufactures began inspections of their own and that, “Certain technical changes have been made in some cases.  As a precautionary measure, the type of stud involved in the Phoenix incident will no longer be in use. At the race in Gainesville (where the series raced two weeks after Phoenix), NHRA inspected certain aspects of Top Fuel and Funny Car wheels, hubs and studs and will continue to spot check vehicles.”

According to the NHRA, testing has begun on wheel retention devices for the vehicles.

“The wheel retention systems are intended to improve retention of the wheel to the race vehicle,” the NHRA said in Tuesday’s statement. “NHRA will allow Top Fuel and Funny Car teams who choose to do so to use either of the two designs that were tested beginning at the NHRA 4Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte.

“NHRA will continue to work with the teams and manufacturers as they develop and test these two designs, as well as others that are in the preliminary design and testing stage.”

The series will be back on the track this weekend for the four-wide event in Charlotte.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 23 2010
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