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from Bob Vaccaro,
For this month’s column, I am changing things up a bit. Instead of showcasing a manufacturer and a delivered apparatus, I am highlighting a
safety team that travels the country with some neat
Several years ago, in one of my Web columns, I highlighted another safety team for racing that concerned
the Indy Car Series. If you are a drag racing fan, you
probably already know about and have seen this team
in action either at one of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) national events or on TV. The team I
am referring to is the NHRA Safety Safari.
To give you a little background about the team, I
have to go back to the 1950s. Members of the NHRA
Safety Safari perform some of the toughest and most
important jobs at every NHRA national event. They
are there to respond to on-track emergencies and help
provide a track ready for competition at each of the
24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.
The Safety Safari, the first full-time team devoted
to safety in North American motorsports, is known
as the finest in racing. The Safety Safari is part of the
team of first responders to incidents, along with other
emergency and medical responders.
In the 1950s, the NHRA formed the Safety Safari
to educate competitors at small dragstrips across
the United States. A four-person crew made up the
original Drag Safari, as it was then known. That crew
used a station wagon to pull one small camper-style
trailer containing all the gear needed to stage a drag
race: timing equipment, a public announcement
system, field telephones, a one-cylinder generator, and
miles of stainless-steel wire to bring all the electronic
equipment to life.
Today, a fleet of trucks pulls a variety of trailers to
all NHRA Mello Yello events, bringing customized
track maintenance equipment, electronic equipment,
firefighting and other safety apparatus, and a track
dryer built from a jet engine.
The full-time Safety Safari crew arrives at the track
Monday of race week to prepare the track. Workers
use hand scrapers, blowtorches, a tractor-mounted
sweeper, and a large vacuum sweeper to remove excess
rubber and groom the surface. The final step is spraying a traction-enhancing compound on the racetrack.
Once the event begins, the full-time crew is joined
by additional staff members to prepare the track early
each morning and provide the stage for the world’s
fastest motorsport and keep it ready for competition
during each race session.
The NHRA’s drag racing safety team works
to keep drivers and tracks safe
A Safety Safari Chevy
Silverado with Amkus
rescue tools and
(Photos by the NHRA.)