Matt Messer brutally crashed his Ultra-4 truck in last weekend's King of the Hammers race in the desert east of Los Angeles. Unable to see through the dust, he went from charging to zero in an instant. His safety gear likely saved his life. Warning: NSFW language
The safety gear in question is what's called a HANS device, and you may have seen this strange collar-thing hanging down as a racer takes off his helmet.
The name is simple; it stands for Head And Neck Support device. It consists of a support behind the neck and helmet, tethered to the helmet and supported by arms around the neck and weighed down over the chest. Because it's not connected to the seat or seatbelts, it prevents the head from whipping around in a crash but doesn't otherwise restrict the movement of the racer's neck.
We have Dr. Robert Hubbard to thank for the invention, who designed his first prototype over the four years following the death of a family friend testing an IMSA Renault 5 Turbo in 1981. Mandatory adoption across major motorsports series began in the early 2000s.
Though Matt Messer's co-driver may have broken both ankles, he and Mr. Messer escaped with their lives.