November 17, 2022
How to solve the crashing problem in grassroots racing
Recently Eric Prill, SCCA’s Vice President of road racing, wrote a fantastic letter to members of the Sports Car Club of America. He did this in response to concerns from members on the growing number of on-track incidents they were noticing.
Within the last year, 10+ drivers I know personally have not been driving because of crashes. Some of them were not even involved in a crash—they were frustrated by spending a lot of money to drive around under yellow flags. Some were involved in a crash, or a few crashes, and got sick and tired of spending money fixing their car rather than spending their money going to events!
Reducing the amount of crashes that occur in our sport is the single best way currently for grassroots racing to grow. Less crashes mean less money spent on repairs, and more green flag run time for everyone. The more enjoyable the sport, the more drivers will want to participate in events year over year.
From my perspective as a professional driver and a coach, it’s clear to me that education is the single best way to reduce the amount of incidents during race weekends. At Blayze we very much want to be part of that solution, which is why we want to offer a few resources completely free of charge in order to keep everyone safe, and having fun.
1. The first thing we have done is removed the paywall to a webinar we had with Randy Pobst where Randy walked drivers through the fundamentals of racing: https://blayze.io/blog/car-racing/vortex-of-danger-with-randy-pobst. I have a lot of respect for my old teammate in Randy and I know this is a subject he is extremely passionate about. I think his talk here should be required viewing for every grassroots racer.
2. I have reached out directly to the SCCA to offer my personal assistance in any way.
3. I am sharing my personal email address publicly here: [email protected]. I invite anyone that is a director or owner of a racing organization interested in reducing the number of incidents during their race weekends to reach out to me personally anytime. As I stated above, I have no interest in trying to make money off of this. I am giving my time and Blayze resources for free.
Going back to Eric’s statement—I’ve included that letter here because I thought it was fantastic. Eric is someone that knows what he’s talking about. He’s not only a great driver but he’s also a great mind to have in our sport.
Screenshot taken from: https://www.scca.com/announcements/391-green-to-checker-letter-to-hoosier-scca-super-tour-drivers
I agree with Eric on most points here.
- 57 tows during a 3 day race weekend is unacceptable
- When we all have limited green flag run time it can generate some feelings of desperation and, “I need to make a move now so let me send it” type of feelings.
- Tracking incident numbers throughout a weekend and reporting on it after a weekend is something ALL racing series should do. (if they have the capacity to do so)
As someone that has raced at all levels for 15+ years, and as a coach that has likely watched more than 200 grassroots races, it’s safe to say I’ve been in and seen my fair share of crashes—just putting in my last name on YouTube will show you plenty of evidence.
Crashes are a feeling and situation with which I’m implicitly familiar. I have found 80 to 90 percent of incidents have a root cause of a lack of education. Racing is a very counterintuitive sport and racecraft is the most counterintuitive part of this. From the hundreds of drivers I have spoken with almost none have had ANY racecraft education.
Here are a few examples of common things I see that lead to a lot of incidents:
- Not knowing when to time a defensive move. AKA, not in the brake zone!
- Overtaking car placement
- Too far away from the car they are overtaking
- Not understanding the “vortex of danger” as Randy Pobst puts it (in our webinar)
- Lack of reference points or understanding how to use reference points when overtaking
I could go on for a while here, but what is clear to me is that “red mist” crashes from overly aggressive drivers are outliers. Most drivers simply put themselves in a bad position without realizing it because they weren’t taught about it in the first place!
All that being said the famous Senna quote, “And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win.” or the Andretti quote, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” are some of the worst things to happen to grassroots racing.
We need less catchy quotes and more simple fundamentals that are not just taught once, but as part of a consistent education program for drivers. I also want to make sure this doesn’t mean more boring classroom sessions or drivers meetings. Who needs more drivers meetings? Making this all fun and easy must be central to any new education program.
Why do I care so much about this? Because less crashes means less money being spent by drivers fixing shit and more on the fun part—driving. On top of that less crashes means more green flag run time which means more enjoyment for all participants. More enjoyment equals drivers increasing how many events a year they do. And it doesn’t stop there. It also leads to further word of mouth growth for our sport too! We are at the tip of the iceberg on how reducing incidents helps our sport grow, and that’s exactly what I want to see happen—grassroots racing growing!
I hope you take me up on my offer to help. Let’s all work together here to take our sport into a golden era of significant new member growth and lots of hard, clean green flag racing.
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