Jeff Gordon rolling along, but still keeping an eye on his back

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As great as it was to soak in the moment after winning his fifth Brickyard 400 last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon found a special sort of happiness a few days later.

“We happened to have a birthday party for [son] Leo this week, so I had the chance to be around a lot of family and friends,” Gordon explained today at Pocono Raceway.

“When you haven’t won a big race like that in a while and you win it, you’re in such disbelief that it takes a couple of days for it to sink in as to how much you respect and appreciate and how you just don’t take for granted those types of moments and days.

“I think for me, it was just a great week to reminisce with all my friends and family who either watched it on TV or were there in person. Those are the greatest moments as a race car driver or competitor that you can go through.”

But now, it’s back to business for Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup championship standings and will start fifth in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono.

Those who perform well at Indy tend to do well at Pocono, which is also a low-banked, high-speed track. But there are also many unique aspects about Pocono that isn’t found anywhere else on the circuit.

“The tunnel turn [Turn 2] is a lot like the turns that we have at Indianapolis,” said Gordon. “But the other two are quite a bit different. So, we take something that we learn from every track we go to and try to apply it. And I think we’ve applied some of those things this weekend that should work well.”

Right now, Gordon appears set to truly contend for a fifth Sprint Cup championship. The “Drive for Five,” ongoing since his fourth title in 2001, has become the primary story around him.

But not long ago, the talk around Gordon centered around him possibly hanging up his helmet due to his ailing back. During the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in May, Gordon had to step out of the car during a practice session because of back spasms.

After receiving treatment, Gordon competed in NASCAR’s longest race. But the legend believes that after what happened to him in Charlotte, he may have to deal with back issues for the remainder of his career – however long that may be.

“I don’t know what exactly transpired there, but it’s not the same,” Gordon admitted. “And I have to be much more careful. I’m just having to treat it more with ice and [electric stimulation] and be more careful and do more stretching.

“Is it going to flare-up again? It could. But I’m just trying to be more cautious with the things that I do that I feel like contribute to that. But, yeah, it’s not great, that’s for sure.”

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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