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NASCAR safety advocate Dr. John Melvin passes away

Jul 18, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

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Dr. John Melvin, whose numerous contributions to the field of driver safety helped make NASCAR safer, has passed away. Melvin served as a safety consultant for the sanctioning body over the last 13 years.

In addition to helping push the HANS (head and neck restraint) device to the sport’s drivers, Melvin was an early developer of “black box” data recording for race cars.

He also was a proponent for stronger driver’s seat construction, improved seat belts, and the use of the SAFER (steel and foam energy reduction) Barrier at race tracks.

Melvin took on his role with NASCAR three years after retiring from General Motors, where he worked for 40 years as a scientist for automotive safety. He was also a former engineer and professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

NASCAR president Mike Helton released the following statement this morning:

“NASCAR and the entire motorsports industry lost a giant on Thursday with the passing of Dr. John Melvin. Dr. Melvin was a pioneer in the field of driver safety, particularly in the area of driver restraint systems. His many contributions as a safety consultant to NASCAR for more than 13 years forever changed the sport. We lost a colleague, and a friend.

“NASCAR extends its condolences to Dr. Melvin’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed by the entire racing community.”

Also paying tribute to Melvin this morning is former Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, one of many drivers that have benefited from Melvin’s innovations:

Auto racing will never be completely immune to disaster. But thanks to the work of Melvin and others like him, the sport is a better place for all who choose to compete in it.

We extend our own condolences to his family and friends at this time.

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