Danica Patrick: 2014 was a success to build upon for ’15

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While she finished 28th in the Sprint Cup standings, one spot lower than she did in her rookie season in 2013, Danica Patrick considers her sophomore season in 2014 a success of sorts.

During Tuesday’s appearance on the annual NASCAR Media Tour, Patrick slightly bristled when a reporter said 2014 was a sub-par season for both her and teammate Kurt Busch.

“I think sub-par is a matter of opinion,” Patrick said. “I think in my second year in the Cup series, there were certain things I wanted to work on and things we wanted to work on as a group.

“I feel there was drastic improvement. Although the overall championship position didn’t really show that, there was a lot of improvements in areas we wanted to. So, I consider that a success.”

Despite sliding in the rankings, Patrick improved her average finish (22.3 from 30.1) and finish (23.7 from 26.1) and also placed a career-best sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September (after a seventh at Kansas Speedway in May).

Patrick had been mentored the past two Sprint Cup seasons by veteran crew chief Tony Gibson.

But in a swap with three races remaining last season, Gibson became Busch’s crew chief, and Daniel Knost, Busch’s first-year crew chief, was switched to oversee Patrick’s team and crew.

Patrick didn’t finish higher than 18th in the final three races with Knost, whose interim tag was removed after the season.

“Moving forward with Daniel brings up new possibilities,” Patrick said. “With a new person, there’s new perspectives and new ways of getting things done. We’re going to be working hard to put all of our best ideas together and stay positive and make our goals happen.”

And while Gibson was moved to Busch’s Chevrolet, he’s still available for advice if Patrick needs him. But Patrick believes she and Knost can build as strong a bond as she had with Gibson.

“It’ll be kind of picking up where I left off with Tony Gibson and his guys that taught me so much,” Patrick said. “They really helped me get much further to the front, qualifying much better and running much better.

“I’m sure there’ll be a little bit of a learning curve (with Knost), but I think we can overcome that sooner rather than later. … I’m really excited because of what was happening last year and the improvements made. And also to develop better relationships, obviously, with a new crew chief and a new group.

“We need to get to know each other sooner than later, so I’ll be putting a lot of hard work into getting our communications going as quickly as possible.”

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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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