ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (AP) -- While issues concerning the HANS device are still being ironed out among drivers, a handful of them experimented with alternative safety gear at North Carolina Speedway.
The HANS device, short for the Head and Neck Support, has not been totally accepted in the Winston Cup garage. Many drivers find the U-shaped device, which slips on similarly to a football player's shoulder pads, too bulky and restrictive, and don't want to use it.
An engineer at Richard Childress Racing, the team Dale Earnhardt drove for when he was killed in a wreck last week at Daytona, developed an alternative restraint system for RCR drivers Mike Skinner and Kevin Harvick to use in the Dura Lube 400.
Series champion Bobby Labonte saw it and got engineer Bobby Hutchens to give him one. He wore it in the race, as did Elliott Sadler.
The main difference in Hutchens' apparatus and the HANS device is that the HANS uses a neck brace and tethers to the helmet to hold the head in position upon impact. Hutchens' device holds the head and neck in place by utilizing the car's seat belts.
Sadler said Hutchens' harness, which has not yet been officially named, straps around a driver's waist and chest. It loops up the back and hooks on to the helmet. Another set of hooks snaps onto the lap belt.
"When you hit a wall in one of these race cars, the first thing your body does is go down in the seat," Sadler said. "You go down and then it throws your head forward. What this lap belt does, if you try to go down, it tightens up on the lap belt and pulls your head back. So there's no possible way your head can move forward."
Labonte, who said he was still willing to work with the HANS device if he could get a custom-made model, said he liked Hutchens' harness.
"It was pretty good, it's just a matter of working with it some more to make it as comfortable as possible," Labonte said. "So far I give it a thumbs up. It's a great deal."
Sadler said he preferred Hutchens' device over the HANS because it didn't restrict his movement.
"You can't even tell you have one on under racing conditions," he said. "I really came in (during practice) and tried to slam my head forward and it really locked in there like it's supposed to. You can move your head side to side all you want, so you have peripheral vision."
Race gets 7.0 overnight rating
Eds: LEADS throughout to recast
NEW YORK (AP) -- The first Winston Cup race since Dale Earnhardt's fatal wreck drew strong overnight ratings despite being rained out.
The Dura Lube 400 received a 7.0 overnight rating with a 15.0 share Sunday before being postponed a day after 52 laps, Fox Sports said.
That means 7.0 percent of U.S. television households in the country's 49 largest markets were watching at any given moment. The share figure is the percentage of homes with TVs in use.
Last year's race at North Carolina Speedway was shown on TNN, and Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said that overnight ratings were not available for the 2000 event.
Full national ratings will be released later in the week, and D'Ermilio predicted they probably will be about double last year's 3.9.
Earnhardt was killed Feb. 18 in the Daytona 500. His son Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed on the first lap of Sunday's race but was not seriously injured.
REPLACEMENT CHIEFS: Drivers Jerry Nadeau and Jason Leffler had fill-in crew chiefs at the track this weekend while their normal ones sat out the first race of a four-week suspension for rules violations at Daytona.
Tony Furr, Nadeau's crew chief, received a $10,000 fine, was put on season-long probation and suspended for four weeks because of a height violation on Nadeau's car. He also was fined $2,500 for a fuel cell violation.
Gordon Gibbs, the chief mechanic on the car, filled in for Furr and guided Nadeau to a 15th-place finish.
Kevin Cram, Leffler's crew chief, was fined $10,000 and suspended four weeks for fuel violations during Daytona 500 qualifying. Andy Graves filled in for him. Leffler finished 33rd.
Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon's car failed inspection after the race for what NASCAR spokeswoman Danielle Humphrey called "a height problem."
Humphrey would not talk specifically about the problem, only to say it would be addressed further on Tuesday.
Gordon is a teammate of Nadeau's at Hendrick Motorsports.
RAIN RULES: It had been so long since NASCAR had an event start on one day and finish the next that the sanctioning body had to distribute a list of rules to the teams about what they could and could not do during the overnight delay.
NASCAR officials didn't have an exact date of the last time a race spanned two days because it had been so long ago. They estimated the last time it happened was here in 1983.
So to refresh teams about the rules, a list of 15 things a team could do and nine things they couldn't was passed out.
The list said only two crew members per car could be in the garage area at a time and had to be accompanied by a NASCAR official. Teams could start the engine, open and close the hood and top off the radiator, among other things.
Some of the things teams couldn't do were: Jack up the car for any reason, get inside the car, add fuel, oil or brake fluid, and repair damage.
NUTS & BOLTS: Las Vegas Motor Speedway will honor Earnhardt at next week's Winston Cup race with a floral display made of 33,333 flowers on the berm that overlooks Turn 4. The arrangement will have 28,000 pansies planted in the shape of a giant number 3. The red trim around the number will be composed of 5,333 petunias. .... Skinner will replace Earnhardt in the No Bull 5 bonus program at Las Vegas next week. Skinner will join Kenny Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte as drivers eligible to win a $1 million bonus if they win that race.
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