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Lingering issues

Simpson doubtful NASCAR will clear it of wrongdoing

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Posted: Tuesday August 21, 2001 11:40 AM

By Mike Fish, CNNSI.com

ATLANTA -- After NASCAR releases its report Tuesday on the Dale Earnhardt report, the controversy isn't likely to immediately go away.

The lingering issue is expected to be why a seat belt worn by Earnhardt failed in the Feb. 18 crash at the Daytona 500 and who, if anyone, bares the blame. The manufacturer of the belts, Simpson Race Products, is doubtful that NASCAR will completely clear it of any wrongdoing.

Bill Simpson, the company's founder, and major investor Nelson Schwab arrived Tuesday morning in Atlanta, accompanied by attorneys Jim Voyles and Bob Horn.

They brought with them seven pages of findings from two separate investigative reports they commissioned, which clear the company and cite "improper installation" of the restraint system and "unfavorable geometry." Specifically, Simpson investigators found the rear anchor points for the belt system failed to follow the instructions for installation.

The key is whether the belts were installed correctly, and company officials don't expect NASCAR to address it in its report. "If they say the belts were not installed correctly, then that points the finger at Childress Racing [owners of Earnhardt's car] and they don't want to do that," a Simpson representative said.

Simpson officials and attorneys are expected to decide what course of action to pursue based on how NASCAR handles the issue.

CNNSI.com has learned that Simpson attorneys have asked NASCAR to address a handful of points in its report that would clear the company, including:

  • The belts were of high quality in workmanship and there were no design or manufacturing defects.

  • The belts met the NASCAR rule book requirements.

  • The belts, as installed, did not conform to manufacturer installation requirements.

  • The separation of the left lap belt was not a result of design or manufacturing defect, but caused by improper installation.

  • The belt separation was not the cause of Earnhardt's death.

    NASCAR has not responded to the Simpson request, and company officials arrived here expecting to not be fully satisfied with the sanctioning body's response.

    "Simpson's position is if the belts are installed correctly they won't fail, and I don't think NASCAR is going to address those points," a company official said. "I don't know if they'll skip them, but we would be surprised if they would address those points in any kind of satisfactory way."

    Company officials believe NASCAR -- ultimately responsible for signing off on belt installation -- won't take the blame and will also be reluctant to be critical of Earnhardt himself or his race team.


     
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