Brian Vickers takes 2015 Toyota Camry to track during Fontana tire test (VIDEO)

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As we told you yesterday, four Sprint Cup drivers are out at Auto Club Speedway in California testing for Goodyear in advance of the 2015 season.

But one of those drivers, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Brian Vickers, isn’t just testing tires. He’s also getting in laps with Toyota’s newest version of the Camry, which broke cover a few weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR’s ban on private testing following this year’s Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway means that the Toyota camp doesn’t have much more time to have its new Camry get on the track. Of course, that makes Vickers’ work at Fontana important.

Even if it’s a bit of a bore from his perspective.

“I don’t know if you have ever been to a test, but it isn’t very exciting for a race car driver,” Vickers said. “I drive for a couple of laps, tell them what I feel, then the engineers will pour over the data, make some changes and back I go out on the track. We just repeat that throughout the day.

“It might not be as fun as racing but testing is where we learn what the Goodyear tires, our car and engine like and don’t like. I enjoy the science behind testing. The more you learn in testing, the better you will be in the race.

“With the reduction in testing planned for next season, days like this are very valuable. So far, I love what I see with the new Camry. It looks good, and drives good.”

Toyota will be the first of NASCAR’s three Cup manufacturers to update its race car in the current Generation-6 Era. Vickers’ teammate, Clint Bowyer, is hoping that they will have a much more competitive machine out of the box in 2015.

“It’s quite obvious that we missed the mark on this car for this year,” he said. “The best thing that I can see is the light at the end of the tunnel is a completely different animal — starting from scratch again next year with a new car and new rules and everything else.

“Hopefully, we can be a lot better to the punch line at the beginning of the year than we were and not have to play catch up all season long like we’ve been.”

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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