New safety group focuses on all forms of motorsports

In an effort to make sure all bases are covered in all areas of motorsports safety, an ad-hoc committee called Racing Safety United (RSU) has been pulled together to discuss and investigate new ways to protect drivers.

"The point here is to make change happen," RSU spokeswoman Kim Miyade said in a telephone interview. "This group was our way of doing that. We are just starting out and we are taking it step by step."

Racing safety was a front-burner topic after the death of seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. Following that tragic day, professional motorsports acted quickly. NASCAR dramatically upped its safety standards including upgrades to cars, cockpits and retaining walls.

While a NASCAR national series has not lost a driver to a crash since Earnhardt perished in Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway, other series have seen drivers mortally wounded in competition.

Three drivers have died in IRL/IndyCar Series racing since 2006. The last to pass away was Justin Wilson, who was killed in a crash at Pocono in 2015.

Formula One mourned the loss of Jules Bianchi, who died during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit.

Deaths in sprint-car racing go mostly under-reported. There are several each year.

There are countless other wrecks at smaller tracks that kill or seriously injure drivers on a regular basis.

With that in mind, RJ Valentine decided to form an industry-wide safety advocacy group. Valentine is a veteran racer with more than 400 professional starts, including several stints in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Racing Safety United currently has 27 members, who have scheduled a conclave on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis.

NASCAR, per se, is represented on this panel by Jerry Nadeau and Randy LaJoie, who are both former drivers.

Nadeau's career was cut short by head injuries suffered in a crash during practice at Richmond in 2003.

LaJoie is a two-time (1996-97) NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, who now designs and builds seats (The Joie of Seating) for race cars. LaJoie is also the founder of Safer Racer, which promotes safety systems for drivers on the grassroots side of motorsports.

Sanctioning bodies are not directly involved with the RSU group.

A NASCAR spokesman said they don't know enough about the group to make a comment.

--- Daytona Beach News Journal ---