‘Race With Restraint’ proves grassroots racers want, will use more safety equipment at affordable rate

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The first attempt at bringing top-of-the-line safety equipment to the grassroots racing masses – particularly those who can’t afford high-ticket items like HANS devices and high-tech helmets – was an unqualified success.

The Motorsport Safety Foundation, formed last year, debuted its “Race With Restraint” initiative this past weekend at the 24 Hours of LeMons at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill.

“It went amazingly well,” said Scot Elkins, chief operation officer of the MSF. “We came here with six HANS devices and six helmets. We ended up renting all of the HANS devices we had and probably could have rented two or three more if we had more because once the word got out, everyone wanted to do it.

“At $30 per day for the HANS device and another $30 per day for the Bell helmets. For $60 a day, a driver got $1,600 worth of safety equipment. Immediately after the driver’s meeting, we rented all our units. It was kind of proof in the pudding. … It seems like this could go very, very well.”

The 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race was arguably the most basic level of grassroots racing there is. Drivers compete in cars that cannot be worth more than $500.

“This type of racing, the LeMons racing, works perfectly for us because these guys only participate two or three times a year and it doesn’t justify them to go out and spend a lot of money on safety equipment,” said Elkins, a former vice president of IMSA.

The debut was so successful, Elkins said, that the MSF plans to take the concept national, with hopes of having 20 different displays placed across the country that will travel to nearby racetracks to allow drivers to feel safer while competing.

“Road racing is where we want to start, but clearly, we want to spread this to every form of motorsport because it applies the same way,” Elkins said. “There’s grassroots drag racing and open-wheel racing. We want to apply it there, as well.”

Those that took part in the initiative lauded it.

“I know when I was shopping for my gear, HANS was on my list,” Detroit resident Curtis Hogan said. “I read a lot about how important it was for safety, but it was just difficult to justify the purchase for the number of times I race (2-3 times per year). This is extremely affordable, so I was real happy to hear about it.”

Added fellow Detroit-based racer Matt Taus, “I think it’s actually a pretty good deal. Instead of having to buy a $500 HANS device, for $30 a race, you can’t go wrong.”

Elkins is working on where the initiative will go next.

“I think the biggest takeaway in doing this pilot program this weekend proves this initiative is very, very real and is something that is very, very much needed,” Elkins said.

“When we did it the first time here and nobody ever heard of it or us before, and then we run out of equipment because of demand, I think it’s very, very clear this is something that’s needed in the marketplace and something we really need to step up and add to more locations. It’s good to justify your idea.”

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”