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As retirement approaches, is Danica Patrick a Hall of Famer?

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DETROIT (AP) — As Danica Patrick prepares for her farewell at this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, another big event on the auto racing calendar looms this week: The vote for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Jeff Gordon is the big name among the nominees for Wednesday’s vote , but as Patrick’s retirement approaches, her own candidacy for an honor like that has become an interesting topic.

Ed Carpenter, this year’s Indy 500 pole winner and Patrick’s team owner for Sunday’s race, was asked if she should receive Hall of Fame consideration.

“I think so, yeah,” he said at an event in Michigan. “She definitely broke down barriers. She’s done a ton of good for the sport of racing, both in IndyCar and in NASCAR. She’s a fierce competitor. I’ve raced against her for a long time, and she’s earned her place just like the rest of us. She’s had her success, she’s taken her lumps, just like the rest of us. But she’s definitely left a very good legacy and has done far more good for racing than a lot of drivers have.”

Carpenter wasn’t asked about any specific Hall of Fame honor for Patrick, whose career has spanned both open-wheel and stock-car racing. She is the only woman to lead laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013 and won an IndyCar race in 2008.

But that was her lone IndyCar win. She never had a top-five finish in NASCAR.

Patrick seemed caught by surprise when asked about possible Hall of Fame honors Tuesday in New York .

“I don’t know, I think that anything I have accomplished as a statistic or something to be honored for, whatever, they are things that if they happen, they are great, but they were not my goal,” she said. “Any record I have I didn’t really know until after; those things either happen or they don’t, all those kinds of things I don’t plan on. I am not really thinking about that, anything like that, though it is quite the honor.”

Patrick finished third in the Indy 500 in 2009, and she led 19 laps in the race as a rookie in 2005. She qualified seventh for this weekend’s race.

“I think she’s the best female there ever was, right? You’ve got to give her credit for what she’s done,” 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud said. “Quite frankly, this month, she’s done tremendous. She’s calm, collected, she hasn’t made a mistake with the car. She’s done her job so far. She was the only woman in NASCAR. She’s the only woman to win an IndyCar race. You’ve got to respect that.”

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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