IndyCar drivers concerned about mandated safety feature

(WISH Photo)
(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Two weekend IndyCar crashes are being followed by two differing opinions about a new, mandatory safety feature at the track.

One driver is convicted it works, but another still has his concerns that it might be hurting more than helping.

The zylon strip is a piece of carbon fiber that’s attached to the drivers’ helmet. The added safety measure was made mandatory this season.

However, a spike of head injuries has some drivers wondering if it’s doing more damage than good.

“This is just the one piece that kind of took the knick out of it,” said driver Martin Plowman as he pointed to a little chip in his helmet.

“It was enough to kind of make me whip back,” he said.

It happened Saturday afternoon at the start of the inaugural Grand Prix.

“It was literally like a hammer blow to the helmet,” he said.

Debris from the crash smacked him in the head, specifically on the new zylon strip, which was designed to stop shrapnel from penetrating the vulnerable area around the eyes.

If that impact had been on the visor which is nowhere near as strong, there’s a small chance that it could have gone through,” said Plowman.

Driver Ed Carpenter’s first chance to try the new helmet was at practice this week.

“I’m still learning about it,” he said. “This is meant to be an anti-intrusion piece which I suppose is a good thing.”

But stopping something from getting past his helmet isn’t his only concern.

“Some do believe that this spec helmet, it’s all carbon, it’s stiffer, and there’s theories, and even this bar, there’s theories, that that may not be the best for concussions,” Carpenter said.

A concussion is exactly what happened to driver James Hinchcliffe. Debris hit him in the helmet causing the concussion, an injury not typical for IndyCar drivers.

“There are other helmets that like we run in the past that I think may be better suited to oval racing than this helmet, but this is mandatory right now,” said Carpenter.

“Maybe there’s just an unusual amount of debris with really bizarre crashes,” said Plowman. “But I guess I need to check in with the safety guys to get a better understanding of why that is.”

Carpenter said he has some questions he’d like to ask IndyCar about the helmet, but he didn’t want to say them on camera.

24-Hour News 8 spoke with Andretti Autosport, the team Hinchcliffe represents. A representative told us if the mandated zylon strip is making helmets safer, they’re happy to have drivers wearing them.

24-Hour News 8 reached out to IndyCar to see if they’ve heard the concerns from drivers like Carpenter, but they did not get back to us as of Tuesday night.

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