Brad Keselowski says Austin Theriault’s HANS device broke in Las Vegas crash

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CHARLOTTE – Austin Theriault’s HANS device broke during his violent collision with an unprotected wall at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski confirmed Tuesday.

“We learned that we know a lot less about safety than we thought we did,” Keselowski said during a news conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to announce his Camping World Truck Series team’s driver lineup for this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. “And that’s very scary.”

Theriault has been sidelined since suffering a 10 percent compression fracture of his lower back in the Oct. 3 crash, but he attended Tuesday’s news conference where Brad Keselowski Racing announced Austin Cindric would make his NASCAR debut in place of Theriault at Martinsville. A team spokesman said Theriault could receive medical clearance this week that he would return the following week at Texas Motor Speedway.

During the investigation of Theriault’s Ford, Keselowski said there “were damage marks that we’d never seen before on that truck that I would directly relate to hitting a wall at a speed and force that was critical mass measurement.

“We still have a lot of work and a lot of things we need to do on the safety front. His incident and the crash study from it is the perfect showcase for that.”

Keselowski said much of what was learned from the crash would be transferable to his Sprint Cup car because Theriault’s cockpit had the same safety design and features as Keselowski’s with the exception of the leg boards (where there were no injuries).

In addition to Theriaut’s HANS device, Keselowski said Theriault’s helmet was damaged by a major impact with the steering wheel, and pieces of the transmission and bell housing also penetrated the cockpit.

“These are major issues that we just got really lucky on,” Keselowski said. “Point blank. Anything else goes a little bit further, and he’s not standing here. That’s what happens when you hit a wall that doesn’t have a SAFER barrier at a very atrocious angle.”

Keselowski said it was the first time he’d seen a HANS device break.

“I’ve heard of them cracking,” he said. “His was cracked and broke. That’s pretty severe.”