Are Smaller Drivers Better?

It’s always a strange feeling when you meet people you’ve seen on television or heard on the radio. You develop a picture of them in your mind and then you meet them and they’re not at all like you expected. Sometimes you expect them to be jerks and they surprise you and are absolutely lovely people. When I met Jeff Gordon the first time, the surprise was that he’s not much taller than I am.


Did Jeff Gordon Really Start NASCAR’s “Youth Movement”?

Admit it. You (like me) have sat in front of the television watching pre-race interviews for a Camping World Truck Series race and asked yourself “Is that kid even old enough to drive?” I thought maybe it was just me getting old, but the numbers bear me out. NASCAR drivers are getting younger. In the Sprint Cup Series, you have Eric Jones (19 and currently the youngest NASCAR main-series champion ever) and Chase Elliott (19). Kyle Larson, at 23, is in his second year as a full-time Cup driver. All this age-related thinking was spurred, of course, by Jeff Gordon’s last race as […]


NASCAR Drivers’ Risky Behavior and the Peltzman Effect

The introduction of automotive safety innovations is usually accompanied by concern about the side-effects of those innovations. For example, when seat belts were introduced, people worried that the belts would keep them from getting out of a car quickly enough if they needed to. When HANS devices first became available, drivers also expressed worry that the protective devices would keep them from getting out of the car fast enough, especially if there were a fire. On the race track, those worries were quickly put to rest when drivers wearing HANS devices were able to escape their cars just about as […]


What Next Season’s (Safest) Drivers are Wearing

I finally got to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last week. It was a lot of fun, especially since I was there on a Monday morning and it wasn’t all that crowded. The next day they had the Chase drivers there for interviews, so I sort of lucked out having a lot of time to look at things without holding up anyone else. I especially liked the exhibits that showed how much things have changed over time. Your first impression is to look at the lap belts and t-shirt/jeans that most drivers used back in the day and shake your […]


Estimating Fuel Mileage

Last week at New Hampshire, Kevin Harvick easily had the most dominant car, but failed to win the race. They ran out of fuel with three laps to go and finished 21st. The #4 team wasn’t the only team that gambled on gas, but they were probably the team that lost the most. Now they’re in a must-win situation this week at Dover. Team owner Gene Haas said that the team made a “simple miscalculation” about how far they could go on the final tank of gas. As reported by Jared Turner on Haas said, “Somewhere we were off in our […]


Cooling Fuel: Safety or Performance Issue?

Temperatures at the Dover race were unseasonably high. Kurt Busch’s Stewart-Haas 41 team was told by NASCAR officials to remove “heat shields” from their fuel cans. The cans (shown at right) have an 11-gallon capacity. Not shown in the pictures is a tube that connects the nozzle at the top with the vertical part coming straight up from the can. This attachment recovers overflow fuel – remember when we used to have a ‘catch can man’? Apparently, Busch’s team was using some type of heat shield on the cans to keep them cool. All of the things I’ve read about NASCAR’s response […]


Maximum G

Sounds like an energy drink, right? Listening to Kyle Busch’s press conference Wednesday was alternately fascinating and cringe-worthy. The fact that he remembers so much about the crash is amazing – it will be a great boon to the safety people who probably will use this as a case study in the future. And best wishes to Kyle to get well soon. Kyle said he left the track at 176 mph, hit at 90 mph and sustained 90 Gs.  My twitter was flooded with people asking “90Gs? No one could survive that kind of a hit.” That’s actually not true. Trying […]


A Band Aid for NASCAR’s Tire Bleeding Problem

There are three things you don’t mess with in NASCAR: engines, fuel and tires.

Tuesday, NASCAR handed down a P5 penalty – the penultimate penalty on the books – to Ryan Newman’s 31 team. Crew Chief Luke Lambert was suspended six races, fined $125,000, and Newman and his owner Richard Childress were each docked 75 points. The tire specialist and team engineer were suspended for six races as well. RCR is appealing the penalty, but I wager they’ve got an uphill battle.

NASCAR’s made its stand loud and clear in the last few weeks. Tire bleeding will not be allowed. If you persist in trying, they’ll come down hard on you.


Age and the NASCAR Driver: Can They Still Compete?

Jeff Gordon’s decision to step away from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has resulted in a lot of discussion about aging drivers. We’re on the verge of a turnover as a number of drivers (Johnson, Stewart, Junior, Harvick among others) reach their forties. And what an appropriate topic for this week as I hit one of those milestone birthdays next week myself. Slowing down is a part of aging. The print on menus shrinks, you wake up with aches and pains you can’t figure out where they came from, and you find that it takes you longer to recover from colds and […]


Are SAFER Barriers Everywhere the Solution?

TL;DR:  No. As the extent of Kyle Busch’s injury Saturday evening at Daytona became evident, Twitter erupted in angry calls for SAFER barriers to be put up on every wall at every track. An interesting division of sides appeared. A small number of people cautioned that simply plastering every track with SAFER barriers was likely to not only not prevent driver injuries, but might actually introduce new problems. Other people accused this group of being insensitive and “stupid”. Interestingly, the small number of cautionary voices were people like the folks who write Racecar Engineering magazine, people who have been involved with motorsports […]

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