Dave Blaney-driven No. 77 Ford to take break from Sprint Cup for ‘retooling,’ hopes to return by Indy

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The first-year Ford-powered Sprint Cup team owned by Randy Humphrey will be doing some “retooling” and taking a temporary break from the series, according to a report Wednesday by NASCAR.com.

Saturday night’s race at Kentucky will be the second event the fledgling team has missed, also skipping this past Sunday’s race at Sonoma.

However, Humphrey was adamant in a phone interview with NASCAR.com that he is not shutting down his team.

“We’re retooling things,” Humphrey told NASCAR.com. “We’re just trying to find the right people. … We have not shut down.”

Veteran driver Dave Blaney has been behind the wheel of the Roush-Yates powered No. 77 Ford for the entire season, with veteran Peter Sospenzo as the team’s crew chief.

Humphrey also told NASCAR.com that he’s not scaling back due to funding, but rather because the team simply hasn’t been as competitive as he hoped in its first year of operation.

When will the team return to the racetrack?

Most likely the Crown Royal Presents the John Walding 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27.

“You will not see us at Daytona (next weekend), but I do suspect you will be seeing us at Indy (going) forward, hopefully,” Humphrey said. “That’s our plan.

“We have some meetings that are going on, and we’re just interviewing some people. We had to retool some people and that kind of thing to get ourselves in order here.”

Of the season’s first 15 races (not including this past Sunday’s event at Sonoma), the team has qualified for just four races, finishing 41st at Texas, 43rd at Darlington, 33rd and Dover and 43rd at Pocono.

As a result, the team’s average start has been 39th and its average finish 40th.

In addition, it has failed to qualify at Phoenix, Las Vegas, Bristol, Fontana, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas and Charlotte.

It has also withdrawn from the season-opening Daytona 500 and its last appearance, two weeks ago at Michigan.

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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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