Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Steve Kinser among those taking part in this week’s Winter Heat Showdown

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A pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars and the “King of the Outlaws” will serve as marquee names for this week’s inaugural running of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown in Arizona.

Hendrick Motorsports veteran Kasey Kahne, reigning Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, and World of Outlaws icon Steve Kinser will be among those racing at the Cocopah Speedway.

The five-night run begins tomorrow and Saturday, then resumes next Tuesday (Jan. 6), and then closes out next Friday and Saturday (Jan. 9-10).

“This is going to be a treat,” track director of operations Greg Burgess told the Yuma (Ariz.) Sun. “I mean, watching Kasey and Kyle in a sprint car…That is going to be special. That’s where they got their start; it’s what they love to do. And they are going up against the best of the best in Steve Kinser, not to mention a bunch of other drivers who are also top tier talent.”

Due to testing commitments with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Rolex 24 program at Daytona International Speedway, Larson will only be competing on three of the five days (tomorrow, Saturday, and next Tuesday). He’ll be racing for the sprint car squad he co-owns, Larson Marks Racing, with this little Plan B Sales/Target-backed beauty:

Not to be outdone is Kahne, who will carry the Great Clips colors into the desert for his own Kasey Kahne Racing outfit:

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2015 @GreatClips car ready for AZ #kkwinterheat

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Then there’s Steve Kinser, who finished full-time driving last season but will continue on a part-time schedule in 2015 for Tony Stewart Racing:

Sneak Peak: The King's 2015 ride. Debuting with the Winter Heat Series on Jan. 2,3,6,9,10 at Cocopah Speedway!!

Posted by Tony Stewart Racing on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Speaking of Stewart, Burgess says that the three-time NASCAR champion is expected to be in attendance for the event. According to Burgess, Stewart first raised the possibility of a winter series at Cocopah to him back in the spring of 2013.

Stewart initially planned to be part of Winter Heat as a driver but that was before his involvement in the Aug. 9 sprint car accident in New York State that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

“We are not expecting to see Tony in a sprint car,” Burgess notes. “Yes, it’s an unfortunate circumstance, but everyone understands and respects Tony’s position, and we are moving forward with the show he wanted to see happen.

“This was his idea, and we are going to do our best to make it an event everyone will remember and can’t wait to get back to in 2016.”

Other top sprint car drivers set to race this week at Cocopah include Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Christopher Bell, reigning USAC midget series champ Rico Abreu, former Outlaws champ Danny Lasoski, and more.

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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