One look at his wrist and Kyle Larson says it’s time to win races and Sprint Cup crown

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Kyle Larson is not a quitter. But after his dismal debut in last year’s Rolex 24, the reigning NASCAR rookie of the year was prepared to skip this year’s running of the Rolex.

But one look at the newest addition to his jewelry collection on his left wrist proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Larson was right in giving himself and the Rolex 24 another try.

He and Sprint Cup teammate Jamie McMurray were part of the winning team in last weekend’s annual running of the Rolex at Daytona International Speedway.

“To get the opportunity to run the Rolex 24 for (team owner Chip Ganassi) was something I looked forward to last year,” Larson said during Thursday’s final day of the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, N.C. “And then, after how I felt I ran last year, I hated the race.

“I didn’t really want to come back and run it again this year. I’m so happy I did, so happy I did. I’m having the time of my life right now, a lot of cool things going on. The Rolex 24 is the latest cool thing that’s happened.”

MORE: Larson not disappointed he won’t drive No. 24

It’s hard to say what meant more to Larson, being a part of the winning team or the Rolex watch he was given.

“Right now it’s 1:17,” Larson, 22, said, one of several times he was caught looking, admiring and smiling at the new watch on his left wrist during the news conference.

Time is of the essence for Larson, who is entering his second full-time season on the Sprint Cup circuit. He nearly won in Cup last year several times, and he is bound and determined to earn his inaugural win this year.

“Hopefully, 2015 goes a lot better than last year did for me,” said Larson, who barely missed qualifying for the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup and ultimately finished 17th in the final standings. “I’d like to get a couple wins and definitely make the Chase, and go for the championship. I think we can do that.”

Larson isn’t the only one thinking that. Team minority owner Felix Sabates made a rather bold prediction when he spoke to the assembled media.

“I’ve never guaranteed anybody anything in all the years I’ve been in racing,” Sabates said. “But I’ll guarantee you both of these guys (Larson and McMurray) will be in the Chase.”

Majority team owner Chip Ganassi isn’t one to usually gloat, either, but he echoed Sabates.

“Obviously, Kyle Larson’s development is nothing short of amazing,” Ganassi said. “I want to thank all the people who told us we were bringing him along too fast last year. Thank you for that. It was great to see him win the rookie of the year. We’re very proud of that and look for many more bigger and better things out of him in 2015.”

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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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