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Safety First: Racing Leaders Gather at IMS to Sharpen Tools, Techniques to Help Drivers

Safety leaders from top American motorsports series gathered Thursday, Sept. 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a motorsports safety forum aimed at improving safety in motorsports.

The event, hosted by Global Medical Response, welcomed key leaders and medical personnel from INDYCAR, IMSA and NASCAR to discuss racing medical and safety topics and concepts.

This event gathered medical leaders from three of the largest motorsports sanctioning bodies in the United States for the first time. American Medical Response is the emergency response team for INDYCAR, IMSA and NASCAR.

AMR’s parent company, Global Medical Response, hopes this helps to develop resources and best practices for motorsports safety. Randy Owen, the president and chief executive officer of GMR, said the procedures and techniques devised by the group could help smaller racing series, tracks or events that lack the large-scale resources of a national touring racing series.

“It was extremely productive and had a lot of great dialogue that showed we can all learn from each other and enhance what we do, with the goal to make the industry as safe as it can be,” Owen said. “That's really our long-term goal: do that for other series or other motorsports events and be able to utilize the three series, which have probably developed the most sophisticated safety and clinical protocols, and be able to use that as best practices for others.”

Also in attendance was three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and current IMSA WeatherTech Championship driver Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, who was invited to provide a race driver’s input.

“What we want to do is get all the proper perspectives from safety leaders, physician leaders, drivers and everyone that's involved,” Owen said. “But it's all about the drivers. Having that voice was very important to us. There are a number of things that he was really able to add value to from a driver's perspective.”

Castroneves said one of the biggest challenges from the driver side is communication. Many times, when drivers and safety crews interact, drivers are extremely frustrated with an accident. The group discussed how important it is for both sides to understand each side’s perspective.

Also, Castroneves pointed out that each series presents unique challenges with different type of race cars. Communication from all parties involved is vital when devising practices that can benefit everyone without creating challenges for a particular series.

“Obviously when you’re talking about NASCAR, it’s different than INDYCAR or IMSA, so there’s different techniques and different ways to approach because of the cars,” Castroneves said. “However, since I drove in INDYCAR and I drive in IMSA, I can find a way to at least elaborate better with the safety crews. I have to say, this was very productive finding possible future ways to having a great platform that hopefully for the future we prevent any circumstances that nobody wants to have.”

The roundtable discussion included many industry leaders such as Owen, GMR Senior Vice President of Operations Randall Strozyk, AMR Medical Directors of Motorsports Operations Dr. Angi Fiege and Dr. Mike Levy, NASCAR Manager of Events and Operations Tom Swindell, NASCAR Senior Manager of Track Services Mike Phillips, IMSA Senior Manager of Medical and Safety Services Mike Murphy, IMSA Manager of Track Services Chad McGunegill, INDYCAR Director of Track Safety Tim Baughman, IMS Medical Director Dr. Geoff Billows and noted racing safety and medical expert Dr. Terry Trammell.

“There was a real interest by all the leaders to sit down and talk about how to create enhancements and how to learn from each other,” Owen said. “I was very pleased with the real interest by all leaders in the series not just to enhance safety and medicine in their series but to focus on the industry. There was a real desire to come up with a way to really enhance protocols and best practices.”

Topics the group discussed included track safety, chase truck staffing, on-track response, concussion evaluation and the work of physicians at the track.

Owen said the goal of the first motorsports safety forum was to create a list of priorities that is important to everyone and that GMR can help accomplish. Owen also emphasized that this forum was the first of what he expects are many to come.

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