Not much time for Toyota teams to try 2015 Camry before testing ban starts

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Toyota will become the first of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ three manufacturers to update its Generation-6 machine next year with the 2015 Camry.

But something else is coming even sooner: A NASCAR ban on private team testing that begins following next month’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

During today’s unveiling of the new Camry at Charlotte Motor Speedway, TRD vice president of chassis development Andy Graves said that the car would hit the track at some point before the teams come to Daytona in February 2015 for Speedweeks.

Thanks to the ban, that leaves a little more than one month for Toyota teams Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing to sample the new car.

But with JGR still having all three of its drivers – Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth – in this year’s Chase, it would seem that they’ll want to devote their energy toward the championship for as long as they’re in it.

“Our whole focus is on right now with where we are with the Chase and everything,” team owner Joe Gibbs said today according to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News. “I can’t see us being able to do much.”

Depending on how long Busch, Hamlin, and Kenseth can last in the post-season, MWR may wind up handling a good portion of the 2015 Camry’s testing in the weeks ahead.

Neither of MWR’s drivers, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, are involved in the Chase.

“We’ll be at Nashville and things like that,” Bowyer said to Pockrass. “We have [Goodyear test at] Auto Club Speedway, we have a Phoenix test coming up. We’ve got opportunities to get in this race car.”

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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