Kevin Harvick fastest in 1st Sprint Cup practice at Watkins Glen

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Kevin Harvick, a former winner at Watkins Glen International in his days with Richard Childress Racing, was fastest in today’s first of two practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series on the New York State road course.

Harvick posted a lap of 68.652 seconds around the 2.4-mile circuit, which works out to an average speed of 128.474 mph inside the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

Following him was fellow Hendrick-powered driver Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports, who was second-fastest with a time of 68.992 seconds (127.841 mph).

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski was third in the session (69.690/126.560), followed by A.J. Allmendinger (69.801/126.359) in fourth and Marcos Ambrose in fifth (69.803/126.356).

Multiple incidents took place during the first Cup practice, with most of them coming at or near the track’s right-hand Carousel turn.

Landon Cassill brought out a caution flag when he spun and backed into the wall there. Also spinning there but avoiding damage were Kyle Larson and Paul Menard.

Additionally, Alex Kennedy lost control of his car in the uphill esses but avoided contact with the blue barriers. Tony Stewart also spent some time in the garage getting a transmission change on his car.

Positions 6-10 in the practice session were filled by Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., and defending Cheez-It 355 winner Kyle Busch.

A second Cup practice is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen – Practice 1 Times

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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