The safety standards for modern vehicles used in drag racing are extremely high, so when a crash does occur the racer has a higher probability of walking away uninjured. If an on-track accident does happen and the vehicle needs repaired, great care needs to go into the process to ensure there won’t be any safety issues in the future. In this article, we talk with Curt Perry from Chassis Engineering about the basics of repairing a car following a crash.
Anytime there is a crash at an NHRA-sanctioned track the safety team will take a look at the car and remove the chassis sticker from the roll cage. This is done to ensure the car is repaired and goes through the recertification process and deemed safe. At that point, a racer will need to take their wounded ride to a chassis shop where they can evaluate the damage and see if the car can be repaired.
The process will vary from shop to shop, but most will get the car up on a jig table to see how tweaked the car is and how the main structure of the car faired in the crash. According to Perry, after the initial investigation, the shop will really dig in to see what all needs to be repaired.
“Typically we’re going to check out the mid-section of the car, the driver’s compartment, to make sure everything is intact. That’s the area where most of your certification is done and is most important when it comes to safety. Once we’ve established the driver’s compartment is square, top bars haven’t been crushed, and the side bars are okay, we begin the process of determining what will need to be fixed on the chassis where the damage occurred.”
The types of repairs required to make a car whole again really depends on what area was damaged in the crash. Making repairs on cars that are tube chassis-style are much easier since you can cut out damaged bars and replace them with fresh pipe as needed.
“Up front, it’s all in the front strut area from the A-pillar post area forward, and the midplate area forward. That’s typically the biggest thing we see — the car needing to be front-clipped, unless they took a side shot or rolled it. In the back, it’s usually the wishbone, four-link bars, rearend housing, axle flanges — those are the parts that can get moved around. You have to check all the upper frame bars to make sure they’re square in the rear, too. Ultimately you’re going to put the car on a jig table, make sure everything is square, and if it isn’t, it will get cut off and replaced,” Perry says.
There are cases when a car has sustained too much damage to be repaired.
“If the main driver’s compartment is in great shape then it’s a matter of figuring out what needs to be replaced and the cost of it. The customer has to weigh what the cost estimate of repair is versus building a brand new car,” Perry explains.
As you can see after any type of crash, getting a quality repair is critical to ensure your car is not only safe but will perform correctly in the future. It’s important to go to a qualified chassis shop to have the car looked over to be sure there are no hidden issues that will compromise the integrity of the car after the repairs are complete.