Austin Dillon on pole for NASCAR Sprint Showdown later Friday night

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Austin Dillon has the longest gap to celebrate between his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole and the race, at the Daytona 500, with a full week in-between qualifying and the green flag.

He’ll have the shortest gap to celebrate his second pole, albeit one in a non-points race, for tonight’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“The Dow Chevy was pretty hard to drive in practice but we changed a lot as best we could,” Dillon told FOX Sports. “We used our teammates, too. I came to the green pretty hard, we were free, but I rode it out. Hopefully we can get in this All-Star Race. It was a huge improvement from practice.”

Dillon posted a late flier of more than 194 mph around CMS to put the No. 3 car on the pole.

AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose round out the top five.

The top two from tonight’s Showdown and a fan vote winner will advance into Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Here’s the starting grid, with the race set to go green at 7:15 p.m. ET. There are two segments of 20 laps apiece for the race.

Row 1
3-Austin Dillon, 27.747, 194.616 mph
47-AJ Allmendinger, 27.821, 194.098 mph

Row 2
42-Kyle Larson, 27.833, 194.014 mph
15-Clint Bowyer, 27.860, 193.826 mph

Row 3
9-Marcos Ambrose, 27.889, 193.625 mph
27-Paul Menard, 27.961, 193.126 mph

Row 4
10-Danica Patrick, 28.009, 192.795 mph
17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 28.034, 192.623 mph

Row 5
13-Casey Mears, 28.064, 192.417 mph
43-Aric Almirola, 28.283, 190.927 mph

Row 6
26-Cole Whitt, 28.318, 190.691 mph
44-JJ Yeley, 28.369, 190.349 mph

Row 7
23-Alex Bowman, 28.558, 189.089 mph
77-Dave Blaney, 28.579, 188.950 mph

Row 8
38-David Gilliland, 28.665, 188.383 mph
98-Josh Wise, 28.714, 188.062 mph

Row 9
7-Michael Annett, 28.831, 187.298 mph
40-Landon Cassill, 28.914, 186.761 mph

Row 10
83-Ryan Truex, 28.940, 186.593 mph
36-Reed Sorenson, 29.091, 185.624 mph

Row 11
66-Joe Nemechek, 29.153, 185.230 mph
32-Blake Koch, 29.399, 183.630 mph

Row 12
33-David Stremme, 30.383, 177.731 mph

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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