Jimmie Johnson tops shortened final practice at Indy (UPDATED)

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Four-time Brickyard 400 champion Jimmie Johnson has topped final practice for Sunday’s main event with a lap of 189.298 mph in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

The session was originally scheduled to run from 9-10:50 a.m. ET, but early morning rains led to a delay of almost an hour and a half for track drying around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A few minutes before 10:30 a.m. ET, NASCAR allowed the cars to hit the track for an abbreviated session that only ran until 11 a.m. ET due to today’s schedule of events – Nationwide Series qualifying at 12:10 p.m. ET, Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 2:10 p.m. ET, and the Nationwide Series’ Lilly Diabetes 250 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Johnson was among four drivers in the Top-5 during the session with Hendrick-powered engines. Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick was third-quickest (188.363), while Jeff Gordon (187.856) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (187.758) of Hendrick Motorsports were P4 and P5 respectively.

But Team Penske also appears to have lots of horsepower on hand at Indy. Brad Keselowski, who won the most recent Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire and has won two of the last three races, was second-quickest in his No. 2 Ford at 188.494 mph.

One of Keselowski’s teammates also was fast in final practice. Verizon IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who is making his second Sprint Cup start of the year, was sixth-quickest at 187.688 mph.

Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle made up Positions 7-10.

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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