Danica’s in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – sort of

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Time will tell if Danica Patrick’s career in stock car racing will be worthy enough to make her a NASCAR Hall of Fame driver. But the popular Sprint Cup rookie has already made her way into the Charlotte, N.C. museum as part of an exhibit that honors her for being the first woman to win a Cup pole.

According to USA Today’s Nate Ryan, Patrick, who earned the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and nearly converted it into a win, was asked for some mementos from the occasion by Winston Kelley, the NASCAR HoF’s executive director. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver responded by donating the trophy for her pole position and some hats from the celebration at Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Lane.

Per Ryan’s story, Patrick’s exhibit is positioned inside the main entrance to the building, which will surely see an uptick in traffic over the next week or so as fans converge for tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s part of a bigger effort by the Hall to emphasize more recent accomplishments within the sport.

“One of the things we realize we don’t have is here’s a 500th home run and so, someone automatically is thinking about the ball,” Kelley told Ryan. “We want to continue to plant that seed when folks do something historical.

“We’ve got a lot of drivers that are humble and not looking to show themselves off, and some think this is just for Hall of Famers. But that’s not the case. It’s telling the entire story of NASCAR history.”

Patrick will start seventh in tomorrow’s Sprint Showdown preliminary race and is aiming to finish in the top two to move to the All-Star Race. If she can’t do that, she’ll have to hope to be the winner of a fan vote that can get her into the main event.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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