Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin top Friday practice speed chart at Bristol

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Being a five-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch has obviously learned a few things about getting around the nearly half-mile bullring.

And when it comes to putting those lessons into practice, what better way to do so than – what else – in practice itself.

Knocking on the door of a 130 mph lap, the elder Busch brother was the fastest in Friday’s early afternoon practice session at BMS, covering the .533-mile surface at 129.789 mph (at 14.784 mph).

Five other drivers exceeded 129 mph with their best efforts: Jeff Gordon (129.421), Denny Hamlin (129.351), Carl Edwards (129.317), Marcos Ambrose (129.238) and last week’s Las Vegas race winner Brad Keselowski (129.203).

Parker Kligerman, who has struggled in the first three races of his rookie Sprint Cup season, had a hard time finding speed, coming in second-slowest at 123.300 mph, followed by Timmy Hill, last on the practice grid at 119.010 mph.

Here’s how the practice session played out for the 45 drivers who will attempt to make the 43-car field later today in qualifying:

1 Kurt Busch 128.789 mph

2 Jeff Gordon 129.421

3 Denny Hamlin 129.351

4 Carl Edwards 129.317

5 Marcos Ambrose 129.238

6 Brad Keselowski 129.203

7 Ryan Newman 128.779

8 Casey Mears 128.589

9 Martin Truex Jr. 128.425

10 Joey Logano 128.417

11 Kevin Harvick 128.417

12 Paul Menard 128.279

13 Aric Almirola 128.253

14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 128.168

15 Michael McDowell 128.116

16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 128.031

17 AJ Allmendinger 127.920

18 Kasey Kahne 127.673

19 Kyle Busch 127.580

20 Clint Bowyer 127.563

21 Landon Cassill 127.529

22 David Gilliland 127.487

23 Austin Dillon 127.470

24 Cole Whitt 127.470

25 Brian Vickers 127.368

26 Jamie McMurray 127.317

27 Jimmie Johnson 127.250

28 Greg Biffle 127.199

29 Kyle Larson 127.064

30 Matt Kenseth 127.039

31 David Ragan 126.888

32 Tony Stewart 126.846

33 Michael Annett 126.829

34 Danica Patrick 126.495

35 Alex Bowman 126.478

36 Dave Blaney 126.470

37 David Reutimann 126.337

38 Josh Wise 126.013

39 Travis Kvapil 125.988

40 Ryan Truex 125.077

41 Reed Sorenson 124.436

42 Joe Nemechek 123.857

43 Parker Kligerman 123.300

44 Timmy Hill 119.010

45 Justin Allgaier – no speed/time recorded

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

James Black/IndyCar
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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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