BRAINTREE, MA— When it comes to racing safety, drivers, sanctioning bodies, safety organizations, clubs, series, track owners, circuit designers, safety personnel, equipment manufacturers, coaches/HPDE groups, insurance companies, journalists and every other motorsport constituent play an important role. Stakeholders may perform different jobs, but they all converge on a race course. That’s why a diverse group of safety advocates has united to form a cohesive, collective and more impactful voice for the greater good of everyone in motorsports.
Racing’s history is studded with shining moments, but is also fraught with terrible tragedies. There have always been heroes on the track, yet there have also been many others behind the scenes. Over the years, a handful of brave souls have championed for safety improvements and saved many lives, but progress has been painfully slow.
Because the industry is so diverse and siloed, safety changes don’t easily proliferate. Thus, the necessity for an all-inclusive platform comprised of influencers from an array of motorsport segments.
The idea to form an industry-wide advocacy group was originally spearheaded by RJ Valentine, a racer with over 400 pro starts, multiple podiums, top 10 finishes, and a 24 Hours at Daytona championship, who personally witnessed much devastation on tracks. The final straw was losing Jim Fitzgerald to basilar skull fracture and, since then, Valentine’s been on a quest to evoke track safety improvements. He envisions a future where serious racing casualties are rare if not a thing of the past.
The working title for this unofficial alliance is Racing Safety United (RSU). Motorsports has many participants, but RSU has only one mission—To make racing as safe as possible, protecting lives and vehicles by reducing damage, injuries, concussions and casualties for drivers at all levels, and paving the way for the next generation.
RSU is currently made up of 30 members, but the list is growing by the day. Independently, each advocate is outstanding in their respective fields, and many are safety leaders in their own right. Together, they form a dynamic force campaigning toward a unified safety goal.
- Jerry Nadeau – Monster Energy Cup Series Winner, 5-Time Barber Dodge Pro Series Winner, $100,000 Big Scholarship Winner, Former Teammate to Jeff Gordon & Jimmie JohnsonDon Schumacher – NHRA Team Owner, Former Champion Funny Car Driver, Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee, Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Research DonorJohn Mills – SCCA GT3 Pro Racer, Race Car Fabricator, TBI Advocate & Survivor, Public Speaker promoting Brain Injury Awareness, Motivation and InspirationLarry Dixon – 3-Time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion, Team Owner, Spokesperson
Randy Pobst – Motor Trend Track Test Driver, SCCA Columnist & Champion Pro Racer
Ian James – Champion Pro Racer & Ambassador for The Heart of Racing
Darren Law – Flying Lizard Motorsports Championship Sportscar Racing Team Owner & Former Pro Racer
Randy Lajoie – Safer Racer Founder, Former NASCAR Champion Driver & The Joie of Seating President
Bentley Warren – one of the most decorated short-track drivers of his generation, seven-time champion at New York’s Oswego Speedway, four-time ISMA series champ, two-time Little 500 winner and Indy 500 Veteran.
Andrew Pilgrim – Traffic Safety Advocate/Public Speaker (www.tsef.org), Pro Race Driver, Contributing Writer to Automobile Magazine
Dr. Preston C. Calvert – Pirelli World Challenge Medical Advisor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Assistant Professor, Neuro-ophthalmology Consultant, Champion Pro Racer, Published Author and former U.S. Army Medical Corps Major
Chuck Lessick – IndyCar Ministry Chaplain, Former Belardi Auto Racing Team Manager & Indy Lights Crew Chief, Owner & Driver in USF2000 Series
Kevin Butterfield, D.C. – BrainForest Center Founder/CEO, Wellness Racing Corporation Founder/CEO & Creator of AvOID System and ReTINA system, Cortical Impact Solutions Founder/CEO, Motorsports Safety Blogger
Dr. Julia Daly, PT, DPT, ATC – Athletic Trainer, Physical Therapist, Motorsports Performance Specialty, Public Speaker & Creator of Return to Competitive Race Car Driving after Concussion
Thomas Woods – Veteran, Warriors on Track Founder, The Brain Treatment Center Military Care Coordinator for MeRT (Magnetic e-Resonance Therapy) & Racer
Mike Semel –U.S. Grand Prix Retired Fire Chief, Watkins Glen International Safety Director & CART IndyCar Safety Team Member
James Penrose – Former FIA Driver Safety Environment Consultant, Initiated FIA 8860 Helmet & Hans introduction to F1 & FIA Series, Drivers/Teams Consultancy through Penrose Safety for Audi WEC, Level 5 & many others
Charlie Frank – The Activation Group (TAG) Partner, Motorsports Event Marketing for BMW, NASCAR, Indy Car and Many Others, Former racecar driver
John Gorsline – The Gorsline Company CEO, Driver Protection Insurance, Family Assistance, Scholarships & Logistics Support
Bobby Seymour –Seymour Performance Products CEO, Former USAC Champion Driver & Racer’s Expo Co-Founder
Kip Zeiter – International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) Outreach Coordinator
Mike Brockman – Previous Motor Trend Road Test Editor for 13 Years, Former Pro Racer & GT Class Winner at 24 Hours of Daytona, & Connecticut’s Own Volvo Dealer Owner
Tom Baker – 30-years in Motorsports track management, media, driver development & promotions, Race Chaser Radio Worldwide Syndicated Host
Dick Berggren – Journalist/Writer of groundbreaking Racing Safety Articles in multiple Motorsports Magazines, On-Camera TV Pit Road Reporter for 32 years, North East Motor Sports Museum President, Champion Sprint & Stock Car Driver.
Joe Chisholm – Race Time Radio Owner/Host & Eastbound International Speedway Race Director
Michael Cummings – Port Imperial Racing Associates CFO – Grand Prix of America Formula One Race Promoter, Motorsports Capital LLC Founder – Motorsports Financial Advisory & Capital Placement, SCCA National Competition License Holder
Jay Heid – Summit Midwest Drag Founder & Promoter, ProQ Motorsports Management Software Founder for Events such as Sturgis Camaro Rally, etc., MotorsportsDirectory.com Founder (A Motorsports Safety Foundation Partner)
Eric Bagdikian – Array Sports Motorsports Operations, Former CODE 3 Animal Disaster Response President, Retired Boulder County Sheriffs Reserve Lieutenant
Eric Curran – Pro Racer for 20 Years, West Coast Exotic Cars Corp Principal & Race Track Owner
RJ Valentine – Champion Pro Racer, Race Track Owner & Founder of Impact Safety Systems
RSU initially plans to focus on track safety, particularly the need for improvements at race courses and speedways nationwide. The first order of business is to raise awareness about antiquated walls as the root cause of many injuries or fatalities. As expenses can be a sticking point, RSU has already begun working on financial aid options for underfunded tracks in need of safety upgrades. Another immediate priority is to identify ways of minimizing racing-related traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). Additional RSU initiatives include research surveys, educational outreach, seminars, track safety analyses, creating guides and resources like comparisons or buffering strategies, consulting on safety product development, and other programs. RSU’s scope of services is expected to evolve as the group continues to expand.
The depth of member involvement will vary based on availability and expertise, but could include disseminating information, social media messaging, spreading the word via broadcast interviews or articles, presenting safety solutions to drivers or tracks, collaborating on proposed safety projects, public speaking engagements, medical advisement roles, etc. In turn for supporting the group’s racing safety cause, RSU will assist its advocates in furthering parallel safety initiatives, resulting in a cooperative ecosystem universally geared toward increasing driver protection.
Valentine recently created a RSU micro site, which also highlights its Medical Advisors, as well as advocates who are making inroads into preventing, diagnosing and treating motorsports concussions and TBIs. For now, this will be home to RSU details and developments. www.impactsafetybarriers.com/racingsafetyunitedalliance
Though altruistic, the RSU alliance isn’t unrealistic about the industry’s adversity to change. Racing will continue to be inherently dangerous despite safety advancements. But every participant has an obligation to do what they can to eliminate unnecessary risk and preventable harm. RSU represents an outlet for safety activists, and all are welcome to join. The greater the number of voices, the better the industry will hear, and the more drivers will survive.