NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 16 Aric Almirola

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Aric Almirola

Season finish: 16th

2014 Season Stats: 1 Win, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s, 0 Poles.

What went right: After Almirola made his way to the front in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, steady rains forced NASCAR to call the race after 112 of 160 scheduled laps. The victory was not only Almirola’s first in Sprint Cup competition, but the first for the legendary No. 43 machine since 1999. It also came 30 years after the No. 43’s iconic driver, seven-time Cup champ Richard Petty, earned his 200th and final career win at the “World Center of Racing.” All in all, not a bad way to make your first Chase.

What went wrong: Before and after Daytona, noticeably strong results were few for Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports. More often than not in the regular season, they were running mid-pack – and to be honest, that’s where you’d expect them to be. But the 43 camp would look to step up in the Chase, and in the opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Almirola charged into the Top 5 only to lose the motor late in the race. Instead of a great finish that would boost his hopes of advancing out of the Challenger Round, he got a 41st-place result that snuffed those hopes out.

2015 Prospectus: Much like fellow 2014 Chase “wild card” A.J. Allmendinger and his JTG Daugherty team, Almirola and RPM must become regulars in at least the Top 10-15 each week. To do that, they’re gonna have to make up a good amount of ground in performance. They’ll look to reach said goal during what will be a busy year for the team – RPM is setting up shop at a new/old location in Mooresville, N.C., and former Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. is making his full-time Cup return as Almirola’s teammate.

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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