Crashes That Kill: HANS Saved Brian Robbins

Brian Robbins won the Milan Dragway Aeroquip Friday Night Run What You Brung Class May 9th driving Keith Engling’s Skinny Kid’s Hurst Olds. The victory was very popular with the crowd considering what this team had gone through in the last 18 months.

Eighteen months ago I showed up early for Milan Dragways Race Wars II to take in all the beautiful cars that will be racing in the Run What You Brung Class. One of my favorite cars is the Skinny Kid’s Race Cars Hurst Olds. Keith Engling AKA Skinny Kid is well known for building the most unique and fastest door cars around. I got a few shots of the sweet Alan Johnson 481X Blown Alky motor. Little did I know at that point I’d be getting a quite different shot later that day.

Brian Robbins {Skinny’s Driver} was reporting some tire shake on the first time trial. They brought the car up for a second run and it seemed like everything was going fine. I thought the run was ending without drama and turned back toward the starting line. Tom the starters face made me spin around to see what he saw. I spun around just in time to see Brian impact the wall at the end of the track.

I was a half mile away from the impact, but I could see the explosion through the lens. You could hear the impact from the starting line. The announcer made the call that Brian was out of the car under his own power.

Jason picked me up in the last vehicle in the safety crew. As we pulled up to the scene, I saw Brian was sitting with the EMT.

The car was engulfed and they used about a half dozen bottles to put it out.

The crew at Milan Dragway is lightning fast when it come to getting the bottles on a fire.

As we were cleaning up the accident we always try to figure out what happened. I was trying to find the front wheel and suspension to get a photo of where they landed. After 10 minutes of looking I found them folded up under the front of the car.

The most amazing thing about this wreck was that after an impact like that, they crew put the doors back on and they latched like nothing had happened. They drivers compartment was mint.

When Keith inspected the car he found the air switch had shook loose and fell to the bottom of the trunk. It shorted out the switch and wouldn’t fire the chute. when Brian went for the brakes at 227 mph it shattered the rotor and sent him into the wall. Hitting the wall destroyed the steering and the rest of the brakes. Brian was along for the ride at that point. He shut he eyes before the impact. When he opened them he was on top of the wall unbuckling his belts. That had to be a wild ride.

Here’s the reason Brian Robbins walked away from that wreck:

Brian originally started wearing the HANS device to make his wife happy. In the beginning it took a little getting used to. Once he got comfortable with it, he said it never bothered him. The list of driver’s that have lost their live from a basilar skull fracture is to long and depressing to list here. The amount of protection offered by the Hans device is incredible. All the roll cages in the world won’t save you from a basilar skull fracture. Dr. Bob Hubbard and race car driver Jim Downing started developing the Han’s device in 1981 after Jim saw one of his good friends crash at a race at Mid Ohio’s Road Course. Jim’s friends torso was strapped in solid, but his head was unrestrained. He fractured the base of his skull. Dr. Hubbard’s Ph.D. thesis at the University of Michigan Highway Safety Research Institute featured research on the mechanical properties of skull bone. From 1971 to 1977 Dr. Hubbard worked for GM developing the head for the hybrid III crash test dummy. The data collected while doing the research for GM helped fuel the mind of Dr. Hubbard. His idea was a simple one, keep the head on the shoulders then it won’t stretch the neck. Dr. hubbard was working as a professor at Michigan State while he was developing the Hans device on the side. In 1987 the first patent was issued for the Hans device. Dr. Hubbard got a small business development loan in 1989 and was able to build and test the prototypes.

Brian is back behind the wheel more confident than ever. He’s got a mean looking race face going before this run. We’ll be looking forward to taking some more shots of Brian heading to the winner’s circle soon.
Mike Yoksich
“The Photo Guy”

About the author

James Lawrence

James started working on a Nostalgia Top Fuel drag racing team in 1992, and the rest has been history. A life-long automotive enthusiast, James is in fierce competition to see whether he can collect more cars or cats. Right now, the cars are winning. James co-founded the NMRA and NMCA Drag Racing Series in 1998 and continues to be an avid and passionate fan on everything 1320. He also thinks he can drive. Thinks, is the key word.
Read My Articles

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