Even In Jr. Dragsters, Molded Form Fit Seats Improve Safety

Many racers think of safety harnesses, helmets, and arm/neck restraints as the primary means of preventing injury by way of high impact to the body. The case is addressed that isolating any body motion, even under your tight restraints, has a more significant benefit in an accident situation. While valuable to drivers of any age or size, ATI Performance Products’ J.C. Beattie, Jr. cites junior drag racing as an excellent example of a situation where containing the driver and providing a perfect fit in a racecar is vital. Recently, the NHRA lowered the minimum age for participants in the Jr. Drag Racing League to five; the challenge to that is that many five-year-old drivers are simply too small to fit in many chassis and seats. Beattie, Jr. acquired a dragster in the offseason for his son, James, and with safety of the utmost importance, looked to a more acceptable resolution than rudimentary means such as pillow and rags.

J.C. Beattie from ATI Performance Products sent us some images of his soon-to-be junior drag racing son, James III, as he is fitted into his very first race car.

“My guy is small,” Beattie explained. “We wanted to invest in a good dragster for the long haul. James is five so he can start junior dragsters but weighs just 35 pounds. I did my share of circle track racing in the past where very form-fitting seats are a must. So I wanted to do a better job of fitting James in the cockpit, and not just stuff rags and pillows around him.”

Not just for safety, Junior Dragster to Pro Modified racers utilize the poured seat insert to position themselves to an optimum height and reach position to better their driving performance.

J.C. called on Jeff Kundratic from JKR Racing Products to “pour” a safer seat for his son. Jeff uses Innovative Safety Products (ISP) lines of Pour In Place seat products to create a form-fit “fingerprint” between the driver’s body and his race car seat.

“It’s not only about forming the foam insert to the driver, but it’s a better way of also raising the driver to an optimum height within their car,” Kundratic adds. “We will position you where you feel comfortable in the car. Your line of sight and arm location are optimum to the steering whee and switches. You are not only safer with this, but also a more comfortable driver.”

The process is straightforward. Small foam blocks are placed inside of a pouring bag to position the driver. A two-part foam solution is then mixed and poured into the bag while the driver sits in place. After being allowed to set, the form is covered with a CarbonX material included with the kit.

With a high quality junior dragster being a pricey investment parents plan for the dragster to be utilized for a long time. Young James Beattie III hams it up as he has plenty of room for growth. The two-part foam solution is mixed by Jeff Kundratic with JKR Racing Products. The ISP seat poring process begins with James settling into the insert in his full racing gear.

“The poured seat has many additional benefits,” explains Kundratic. “In addition to safety, I have recently poured a number of seats for older racers. One racer was ready to sell out and quit racing due to back problems. After talking, he decided to try a poured seat as an option to retiring. He went down for the winter series events in Florida where he never experienced his back pain.”

We also asked Rickie Jones from Quarter-Max Chassis and Racing Components for his input on poured seats for racing. As a major retailer of all things drag racing chassis, Jones says, “We ship out many of these kits to customers and pour many seats as a service in our shop.”

As the poured foam begins to expand, James is held in place as not to change his position. Once cured, the seat is modified for harness access points and covered in CarbonX material.

Quarter-Max sells ISP seat kits as well as ButlerBuilt bead foam seat insert kits.

“I like the ButlerBuilt kit as well,” Jones describes. “This kit consists of small beads. As you sit in your seat, it is like pushing your hand into a bean bag, and it conforms around you. Then you pull a vacuum seal down in the container bag; the beads will then stay conformed to that shape. If you want to adjust the shape, you loosen the vacuum, slightly and move them around and reset the vacuum.   I really like this design.”

With RJ Race Cars/Quarter-Max constructing many Pro Stock and Pro Modified chassis for teams, he explains another benefit to poured seats.

“It is a big benefit to teams with multiple drivers and cars,” Jones explains. “We use the exact same seat layout in all of our chassis. If a driver wants to switch cars or even update to a new chassis, they can simply take their seat insert and move it into another car.”

A perfect example of those interchange benefits he describes is with Erica Enders.

Erica has probably driven six different RJ cars over the years. Whatever car it is, all of our cars are constructed with the same carbon fiber seats and mounted in the same spot in every car. She can take her seat insert out of one car and put in another, and she is in the same spot within the car. – Rickie Jones

As the “pour” takes place in the ATI Performance shop for James’ new dragster, one of the humorous anecdotes to the process was again related to his small stature. J.C. chuckled as he describes, “as the ISP forming mix was setting up, we had to keep pressure pushing down on young James’ shoulders. As the foam expands slightly, it was pushing him upward in the seat.”

Kundratic makes another point when it comes to safety. “You can use junior dragster racing as an example, but I have seen it all forms of racecars,” he says. “No matter how tight you are belted against foam, pillows, and more, it just allows the opportunity for a driver to move around causing harm or even allowing you to come out from behind your harness.”

The ButlerBuilt seat insert design uses a container of tiny beads that are formed in place with vacuum. Quarter-Max sells both ButlerBuilt and ISP products in kit form or custom installed at their shop.

Rickie Jones chimed in, “When I started racing my rookie year in Pro Stock, I didn’t have a poured seat. It was common to have a little seat pad of foam with a leather cover. When we were making so many runs during testing, I noticed at the time that my back was hurting. I was 21 years old and in pretty good shape, so wondered why. We then started doing poured seat inserts. My pain went away, and it never came back. It shows how much void there is in the small of your back. I think these things are great. It’s a good safety item that every driver should have.”

Beattie concluded with a description of his son as the poured seat process was finished. “I could see a confidence in James’ eyes,” he describes. “He knows now that the car is made just for him. He can reach everything better, he can see better. The whole family feels comfortable with the car now, and he is looking forward to his reservation to attend Roy Hill’s driving school this spring.”

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About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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