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 waslosing Jim Fitzgerald to basilar skull fracture and, since then, Valentine has been on a quest to evoke track safety improvements. He envisions afuture 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 29 members, but the list is growing by the day. Independently, each advocate is outstanding in their respective field, 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 Johnson
- Don Schumacher – NHRA Team Owner, Former Champion Funny Car Driver, Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee, Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Research Donor
- John Mills – SCCA GT3 Pro Racer, Race Car Fabricator, TBI Advocate & Survivor, Public Speaker promoting Brain Injury Awareness, Motivation and Inspiration
- Larry 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
- 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 – Race Chaser Media Founder / CEO, Race Chaser Radio 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 an 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.
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.