Flagman struck, killed by race truck at Florida short track

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A flagman officiating a race at Bronson Speedway in Archer, Fla., was killed in a racing accident at the track this past Sunday.

According to the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, veteran track official and flagman Buddy Jack Howell, Jr., was killed after being struck by a race truck that had gone out of control, according to Levy County sheriff’s investigators.

Howell, 49, was a resident of Bradenton, Fla. Paramedics attempted to revive him both at the track and en route to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival, according to Lt. Scott Tummond, a Levy County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Tummond said there was no foul play in the incident at the track, which bills itself as “Florida’s Premier High Bank Short Track.” The track is located about 15 miles southwest of Gainesville.

“It’s a tragic accident,” Tummond told the Sun. “This wasn’t a race with high speeds.”

Veteran race competitor J.W. McNeal of Jonesville, Fla., recalled Howell as someone who loved racing and worked at a number of different small tracks across the Southeast.

“I think this is going to make everyone reflect on what racing is all about,” McNeal said. “The one thing Bud would not want is for us to stop racing.

“It’s not uncommon to see the same guy in the flag stand hanging out in the pits or in the field. Bud could do anything.”

Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy had spent Saturday night at the track with his daughter, who is interested in racing.

“(Howell) even let her climb up in the flag stand and taught her how to wave the flags,” Braddy told the Sun. “He was eager to teach his knowledge about the sport. I took it pretty hard.”

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New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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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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