DATE OF INDUCTION: February 21, 2009
CAREER SPAN: 1968–Present
AGE AT INDUCTION: 68
For more than 30 years snowmobile racers and trail riders have enjoyed greater personal safety thanks to Ken Konop, inventor of the Saf-Jac protective vest and safety advocate. Combining an impact-dispersing plastic outer shield with padded fabric underneath, the Saf-Jac was the first snowmobile safety product of its kind that protected the racer’s torso. Introduced in 1975 during the first heyday of snowmobile race participation, the Saf-Jac has prevented countless serious injuries to thousands of thankful racers and riders, with an exemplary legacy of quality and safety.
Konop’s racing career spanned 1966 to 1978, mostly in USSA’s Central Division, having qualified for the World Series of Ovals for eight consecutive years, including a 1971 win in Booneville, New York But it was the accidental death of his wife, Jacque, at a snowmobile race in 1974 that inspired Konop’s greatest contribution to snowmobile racing history.
Just months after Jacque’s death, Konop developed, marketed and sold the first chest- and back-protecting safety vests. Named in honor of Jacque, the Saf-Jacs set a new standard for personal safety and helped shape safe equipment requirements for all racers. More than 13,000 Saf-Jac protection vests have been sold throughout the world, averting untold injury to as many racers and riders for more than three decades. After retiring from 30 years as a high school teacher, Konop of Brillion, Wisconsin continues to lend his expertise and help as an official in the USSA circuit.