Kevin Harvick outsmarts Kyle Busch, earns third career NNS win at Chicagoland Speedway

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JOLIET, Ill. – What looked like yet another almost certain Kyle Busch win on Saturday literally went up in smoke, as Kevin Harvick rallied to earn his third career Nationwide Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway.

It was a fitting win for Harvick, as the race was sponsored by one of his primary sponsors, the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300.

“To win the Freaky Fast 300 with all the Jimmy John’s people that were here is pretty cool,” said Harvick, who led 43 laps, including the last 39 of the race.

It was the fifth time overall that Harvick has won at Chicagoland Speedway in his career, having also captured the first two Sprint Cup races held at the 1.5-mile track in suburban Chicago.

It was Harvick’s 44th career win in the Nationwide Series, his fourth win and 13th top-10 NNS finish this season and the ninth overall win for JR Motorsports in the NNS this season.

“Having (crew chief Ernie Cope) and Kevin as part of the fold, they’ve won a lot of races this year and have helped the speed on the cars,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “They’re a big part of the reason why the program has been able to make that big step. … Kevin has three more races this year and he’s chomping at the bit to get three more wins.”

Kyle Busch dominated the first three-quarters of the race, leading 141 laps. But when the yellow caution flag came out on Lap 153 due to Jeremy Clements’ engine failure, Busch opted to go with four tires vs. two by Harvick, and dropped from first to 16th by the time the race restarted on Lap 160. Harvick, meanwhile, regained the lead one lap after the race restarted and never looked back, with a 2.108-second margin of victory.

“We were either going to stay out or get two (tires),” Cope said. “We were going to make the 54 (Busch) come get us.”

Added Busch, “I had a really fast car and we knew we had to come down and get tires, but obviously four was the wrong call and put us behind. I fought my butt off to try to get back, but the best I could do was third.”

Kyle Larson finished second, while Ryan Blaney was fourth and Trevor Bayne was fifth.

Elliott Sadler was sixth, followed by Ty Dillon, Regan Smith, polesitter Brian Scott and points leader Chase Elliott.

Elliott now leads Smith in the NNS standings by 18 points. Dillon is in third-place, 40 points back, followed by Sadler (-51) and Scott (-56).

Getting back to the rest of the finishing field in Saturday’s race, Paul Menard finished 11th, followed by Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Landon Cassill, Dylan Kwasniewski, James Buescher, Ross Chastain and Mike Bliss.

Ryan Sieg was 21st, followed by Dakoda Armstrong, Brennan Newberry, Ryan Reed, J.J. Yeley, Eric McClure, Matt Dibenedetto, Will Kimmel, Cody Ware and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Wrapping up the final 10 finishers were Kevin Swindell, Denny Hamlin, Jeremy Clements, Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Derrike Cope, Josh Reaume, Martin Roy, Ryan Ellis and Blake Koch.

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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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