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Old 07-12-2010, 03:02 AM   #1
ZfrkS62
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Default Mark Niver killed at Northwest Nationals

Few details, but story here

I was at the NHRA Northwest Nationals today when an Alcohol Dragster driven by 60 year old Mark Niver failed to stop after his 216mph run in the semi finals.

At the end of the track, Mark triggered his parachutes which are designed to severely slow the car so that the driver can stop it using the brakes. However, as soon as the 'chutes deployed, they tore off the car, leaving Mark to rely on the brakes which are only fitted to the front wheels. He was unable to get the car under control and speared head on into the catch net at the far end of the track. It took awhile to get him extracted from the car, and he was immediately transported to a nearby hospital where he would succumb to his injuries. His final run set high speed of the day and would have advanced him into the finals. His competitor for the final race declined to take the tree out of respect for the 30 year veteran of the sport.

A horrific crash is enough to remind everyone of the dangers of racing, but for someone to lose their life is completely unnecessary. Given the set up of Pacific Raceways, I can see how a net at the very end of the track is the easiest thing to come up with and implement to get a runaway car stopped since the last 1/4 mile, or so, of pavement is the second half of the road course's front straight, followed by a short sand/gravel trap just before the net, but consider the worst case scenario: a Top Fuel dragster breaks the finish line timing beam at over 300mph (Tony Schumacher hit 322.19mph today) and for whatever reason, the 'chutes fail to deploy at all. There is no possible way that net can stop the car slow enough to save the driver. Something closer to the arresting cables used on aircraft carriers is the only thing that I can think of that is capable of stopping a car in short amount of time. Hopefully when the dragstrip is relocated in the next couple of years, this will be a non issue and they will have a proper system in place.

RIP Mark.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:48 PM   #2
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RIP... shades of the last Drag racing death...
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:24 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by nthfinity View Post
RIP... shades of the last Drag racing death...
I sorely underestimated the speed he tripped the lights at. It wasn't 216 as i thought, but 271. King County Medical Examiner determined blunt force trauma to his chest which damaged his aorta, trachea, esophagus, spinal column and ribs.

Drivers discuss his passing
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Old 07-13-2010, 02:30 AM   #4
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ESPN Story with footage:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5372637
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:25 PM   #5
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I can't believe they showed it on the news, pretty poor taste.
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:40 PM   #6
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May he R.I.P
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Old 07-14-2010, 02:40 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by pitfield View Post
I can't believe they showed it on the news, pretty poor taste.

I generally agree. Live on TV events often get covered, and covered again and again... how many times did we watch Dale Ernhardt crash in the news segments?
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Old 07-14-2010, 06:05 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by pitfield View Post
I can't believe they showed it on the news, pretty poor taste.

I'm not surprised. Even though what we witnessed was the moment someone's life came to an end, it wasn't seen in graphic detail.

I for one wanted to see how the crash unfolded. When unexpected failures like this happen, I often wonder how it happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it.
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Old 07-14-2010, 09:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Minacious View Post
I'm not surprised. Even though what we witnessed was the moment someone's life came to an end, it wasn't seen in graphic detail.

I for one wanted to see how the crash unfolded. When unexpected failures like this happen, I often wonder how it happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it.
Spot on. We can learn a lot from seeing the tape.

There was nothing tasteless about seeing the accident - in fact, if you where not told the driver succombed to his injuries, you would never know by just watching the video.

The net appears to have done more bad than good - a really deep sandy runoff section followed by a traditional tyre/foam barrier might have been better than the nets.
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Old 07-14-2010, 10:11 PM   #10
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Sad.

Zfrk, your arresting cable idea is interesting. I bet the NHRA could put that into practice for their top level cars and various sanctioned tracks.
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Old 07-17-2010, 09:36 PM   #11
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The only problem with the arresting cable is that the cable has to attach to a hook somewhere behind the car...which means that the car has to run over it before it catches...with a plane it's less of a problem because it hangs off the tail end while it's coming down.

I guess that what I would want to demand is an extra set of brakes which function on the rear wheels rather than those teensy fronts. More traction = more stopping power if good enough brakes are supplied.
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