Jim Downing & Bob Hubbard Inducted Into Motorsports Hall of Fame of America

The creators of the HANS device spent decades proving the safety of their restraint system...

Jim Downing and the late Bob Hubbard were honored on March 12 for their contributions to racing safety by being inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, located at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The MHOFA joins a long list of organizations that have recognized Downing and Hubbard, including Formula 1, the Smithsonian Institute, the SCCA Hall of Fame, among many others.

“This recognition by the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is much appreciated,” said Downing. “It is a reminder about the role the HANS has played in racing safety. I am grateful to the racing community for acknowledging the value of our hard work.”

In 1981, IMSA champion Downing posed a significant safety question to his brother-in-law Hubbard: “What can be done about head injuries in motor racing?” A professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State, Hubbard responded by inventing the HANS device, which Car and Driver magazine would describe as the “best safety invention since the seat belt.”

Downing and Hubbard’s story is the subject of “CRASH! – How the HANS Helped Save Motor Racing.” A look at safety in the first 100 years of motor racing, the book carries readers through the inside story of how Downing and Hubbard struggled to introduce their revolutionary device over the course of two decades.

Jim Downing & Bob Hubbard Inducted Into Motorsports Hall of Fame of America | THE SHOP

“We recognized the need for a head restraint early on,” said Downing, who launched HANS Performance Products in 1990. “People were getting killed by head injuries and it was considered a normal part of motor racing. That all changed when Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.”

Downing admits he sometimes wanted to quit trying to gain acceptance for the HANS during the 1990s, which followed a decade of development by Hubbard during the 1980s. “It was a long haul. I was discouraged at various points when we couldn’t even make a dent in people’s lack of interest. When I thought about quitting, it was more of an emotional response. It was obvious that it was a safety advantage for anybody who wore the HANS.”

Hubbard, who died in 2019, never faltered, said Downing. “Bob never gave up,” Downing continued. “He refused to be dissuaded from any of the naysayers. He kept his head down and went at it. Thank goodness he did.”

“We sold fewer than 300 devices in the 1990s,” Downing added. “After Earnhardt’s crash, we sold more than 300 in less than a week.”

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