NASCAR: Chase Elliott gets closer to coronation as Nationwide Series champ

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The charmed life of Chase Elliott continued in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, even though he didn’t have the day he was hoping for.

For the second race in a row, Elliott survived a dodgy moment that could have impacted his march to the Nationwide Series championship. He eventually finished 10th, and combined with a frustrating afternoon for his closest pursuer, JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, Elliott’s lead in the standings grew to 38 points with four races left.

But it could have been a much different outlook.

Leading up to a caution with 56 laps to go, Smith’s car suffered a broken sway bar on the right front of his car before Dakoda Armstrong spun to trigger the yellow.

Since the yellow came out before a cycle of green flag pit stops was completed, it led to the leaders and lapped drivers being jumbled up for the restart with 48 laps left.

And that ultimately led to Elliott, running in the Top 10 at the time, stuck going three-wide with backmarkers Mike Bliss and Jamie Dick one lap after the green came out.

Bliss made contact with Elliott’s left rear, which then pushed Elliott into Dick and sent the latter spinning into the Turn 2 wall.

Elliott went low to avoid Dick and while he had taken some left-side damage from Bliss, he had dodged disaster.

As for Smith, he fell multiple laps down for pit road repairs and went on to finish eight laps off the pace in 22nd, ending a rough Saturday that began with him crashing his primary car in qualifying.

Instead of being happy with the extra breathing room in the championship, however, Elliott was not pleased with his effort.

“We really struggled, and there’s no excuse for that,” Elliott told ESPN. “We just had a bad day. Regardless of what the points situation looks like, this was not the performance I was looking for today.

“I’m bummed about it. We may have gained, but I am certainly bummed. We have some work to do coming back here for next year, and hopefully, we can rebound next week at Charlotte and have a better run there…

“…We’ve been off the whole time [this weekend]. I thought we were gonna be a little bit farther inside the Top 10 toward the end of the race and got to racing with [the backmarkers] and made a mistake that got us put back. We’ll try to be better for Charlotte and move on.”

Still, he’s in a much better spot than Smith, who now only has a two-point lead over Ty Dillon (finished fifth) for second in the championship.

Over the last few weeks, Smith has been ceding ground to Elliott in the form of a few points here and a few points there.

Now, he’s lost a big chunk of them and, perhaps, any hope of winning the title.

“It really started yesterday,” Smith said. “We just didn’t have the speed we wanted, so we kind of changed a lot of stuff to go out and qualify this morning. First session, the car was really loose, and second session, I backed it into the wall.

“And any time you do that and got to roll out a backup car two hours before the race, you really have to expect anything to happen. My guys did a great job just getting the car ready and getting it to where we can get to the grid with it, much less be competitive for the first stages of the race.

“We fought with it. It was kind of what we anticipated for the day. At this point, it’s obviously disappointing. It’s a long year…And we’re gonna get as many points as we can.”

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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