Ganassi tabs Matt McCall as new crew chief for Jamie McMurray

1 Comment

Two days after the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team and driver Ryan Newman finished one spot shy of winning the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, Newman’s lead engineer has found a new home.

Matt McCall has been hired by Chip Ganassi Racing to serve as crew chief for its No. 1 team and driver Jamie McMurray next season.

“I am very excited to join the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team,” McCall said in a team release. “This organization is one that everyone in the garage has taken notice of in 2014 and I am just looking forward to the opportunity to make them even better.

“We have a group of very talented people building and driving the race cars here and I can’t wait to get started.”

McCall, a former driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series as well as a former champion in the World Karting Association dirt series, will assume his role with CGR effective immediately.

“We are very pleased to add a crew chief like Matt to what we feel is a team and program that is certainly on the rise and feel that he can take it to the next level,” team owner Chip Ganassi said.

“Matt brings a lot to the table that we are thrilled to have. He has been a successful race engineer for the No. 31 team and has the added experience of being a driver, which we feel will add to his success in leading the No. 1 team. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will mesh very well with Jamie and the whole team. We couldn’t be happier.”

As for now-former No. 1 crew chief Keith Rodden, it is believed that he is on his way back to Hendrick Motorsports. Prior to joining CGR, Rodden was lead engineer on Hendrick’s No. 5 team for Kasey Kahne.

CGR took a noticeable step forward in performance this past season, and it will be up to McCall to help continue that trend. However, McMurray himself had mixed fortunes.

He won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in May at Charlotte and improved over his 2013 results in both Top-5 (seven) and Top-10 finishes (13). But he also failed to make the Chase and slid back in the points standings from 15th in 2013 to 18th in 2014.

McMurray is optimistic that with McCall on his team, better results are on the way.

“I am really looking forward to 2015 and beginning to work with Matt,” said McMurray. “As a team, I think we will carry a lot of momentum into Daytona and the hiring of Matt will continue to move the program forward.”

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

James Black/IndyCar
Leave a comment

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

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter