NASCAR’s “road course ringers” largely struggle at the Glen


Regular MotorSportsTalk readers might remember my attempt at forecasting how NASCAR’s “road course ringers” would fare at Sonoma, and suffice to say, it didn’t go so well.

But as occasionally a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, so too does a pick of mine come good. My “Charlie Kimball as IndyCar’s Mid-Ohio sleeper” pick blossomed nicely.

Either way, here’s a recap rather than a forecast of how the “road course ringers” did Sprint Cup’s second and last road course race of 2013. It’s become a lot harder for these one-off drivers to come in and score a result as easily as they used to.

  • Max Papis got the call in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet and did a respectable job, finishing 15th after starting 29th.
  • Boris Said (No. 32 Fas Lane Racing Ford, 22nd) and Sprint Cup debutante Owen Kelly (No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, 24th) scored top-25 finishes, which is far from great, but OK given how far most of the full-season drivers have come on road courses.
  • Alex Kennedy ended 29th in the No. 19 Humphrey Smith Toyota, that car’s best result in quite a while, with Ron Fellows only 35th in the No. 33 Circle Sport Chevrolet. Only positives there are the cars coming home in one piece.
  • Victor Gonzalez Jr. (No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet) and Tomy Drissi (No. 87 NEMCO Chevrolet) were caught up in a Lap 39 accident. Rough day.

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

James Black/IndyCar
Leave a comment

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

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter