Brickyard 400 Update: Strategies shifting, but Kahne’s leading at halfway

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In a race that has been filled with strategy plays, Kasey Kahne holds the point at the halfway mark of today’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kahne took the lead off a restart at Lap 73, and is ahead of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano.

Pole sitter Harvick narrowly led the first lap but Gordon took the lead going into Turn 1 from his fellow Chevy driver.

In clean air, Gordon quickly grew the lead to more than four seconds before a competition caution came out at Lap 20 so teams could check tire wear on a green surface after overnight rains.

Logano chose to stay out on the track, but the rest of the leaders decided to pit. Gordon won the race off of pit road with a two-tire stop, but Logano took over the lead.

Other strategy plays ensued in these stops as well, with Jimmie Johnson going fuel-only and Harvick choosing to take four tires instead of two.

Logano took the inside line for the restart at Lap 26 and kept the point, while Gordon struggled to get going and bottled up the outside line. He eventually settled down in fourth behind Logano, Kahne, and Johnson, while those farther back jostled aggressively for positions.

Also losing out on the restart was Brad Keselowski, who was pinned behind Gordon when he spun his wheels and dropped all the way back to ninth as a result.

Kahne eventually got past Logano in Turn 3 for the point at Lap 32, and a few turns later, Logano came in for his first stop under green. That started a wave of green-flag stops featuring Kahne coming in from the lead at Lap 38, which handed the lead to rookie Kyle Larson.

Larson would hold the lead until Lap 43, when he and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray hit the pits together. The lead shuffled to Austin Dillon and then to Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin, who pitted under the competition caution, was able to stretch his fuel load to Lap 56 before he finally went in for his second stop. That completed the cycle and put Harvick back atop the pylon by less than half a second over Gordon.

Gordon was able to pass Harvick for the lead just before they pitted together on Lap 66. Two laps later, the first caution of the day came out when Danica Patrick slowed to a stop coming off pit road with a reported broken axle.

Patrick would eventually get the car going again, but not before NASCAR opted to throw the yellow (she eventually went back to the garage for repairs). A good chunk of cars decided to pit at this point, including Tony Stewart, Dillon, McMurray, and more.

But Hamlin kept to his fuel strategy and stayed out to maintain the lead ahead of Harvick, Kahne, Gordon, and Busch. However, Hamlin was jumped on the Lap 73 restart by both Kahne and Busch, and then Harvick dropped him to fourth by the time they came back around to the Yard of Bricks.

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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