Do Big Wrecks Contribute to Driver Decline?

Brentford

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I'd definitely think being in a serious crash would cause them not to take as many chances and just to sit back and take what their car will get them. Shoot, even when I nearly get in a wreck in my car, I'm definitely more nervous and cautious than I was before. I imagine that feeling would be 10x worse for these drivers.
 

StandOnIt

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I believe it can happen to drivers of all ages. Some are immune, dust themselves off and go on, and some slow down a tic. I believe it hurts more and is more common the older a driver gets. Fear of the crash, losing a tic on the reflexes can take it's toll. In Johnson's case I believe he has slowed down a bit, but he is still taking chances and running pretty hard. He is having a better year in awhile being in 11th place.
 

kkfan91

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I believe it can happen to drivers of all ages. Some are immune, dust themselves off and go on, and some slow down a tic. I believe it hurts more and is more common the older a driver gets. Fear of the crash, losing a tic on the reflexes can take it's toll. In Johnson's case I believe he has slowed down a bit, but he is still taking chances and running pretty hard. He is having a better year in awhile being in 11th place.
Yep my girlfriends 6 year old had 1 bad crash in a quarter midget and lost all desire she had to race.
 

DSquad48

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Jimmie was looking like a title contender that year until that wreck.
Very possibly concussed from that. Old boy hasn't been the same since.

He also had a good 5 seconds to think about how he was definitely going to die when those brakes failed. I would guess that can mess up your psyche, especially as a father.
 

StandOnIt

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Jimmie had already won 3 races going into the Pocono crash. Closest he came after that was one 3rd place the rest of the year.
 

Turtle84

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17' was just after Edwards had retired off a hard wreck, and Junior was readying to retire from all of his hard wrecks sitting out dealing with the concussion issues too, so that's sort of an interesting coincidence all happening around the same time. Maybe that is part of why NASCAR has rolled back speeds somewhat.

I think it could play a part in taking risk on track, and slow down that killer instinct of aggressiveness. At the same time, you see Kyle Busch flew off into the wall broken leg, only to go win more, maybe it depends what track or how it impacts you, age, outlook etc, infinite variables like @Greg said.
 

Team Penske

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Nascar was drifting in the direction highest speed possible and that was over the top of what JJ was comfortable with especially after that crash. With his record and financial position, what is the advantage of taking more risks. With a beautiful family and a hefty bank account you have to ask yourself "what more can be gained" with this life style.
 

StandOnIt

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Nascar was drifting in the direction highest speed possible and that was over the top of what JJ was comfortable with especially after that crash. With his record and financial position, what is the advantage of taking more risks. With a beautiful family and a hefty bank account you have to ask yourself "what more can be gained" with this life style.
that doesn't just include him only either. IMO there have been many who have made a career out of wheel holding. I think that is one of the reason for the stages.
 

Spotter22

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Reddick comes to mind ^^ I wonder if he will still be that aggressive if he has a big one.
Im not really sure, these cars are safer ( not bullet proof) then ever along with the safer barriers so those hits dont come as often as back in the day. I think a Ryan Newman type hit would get his attention. While we are on the subject, that kid is damn good. He has the ability to move RCR back up the ladder.
 

StandOnIt

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Im not really sure, these cars are safer ( not bullet proof) then ever along with the safer barriers so those hits dont come as often as back in the day. I think a Ryan Newman type hit would get his attention. While we are on the subject, that kid is damn good. He has the ability to move RCR back up the ladder.
Yeah I think he has a lot of fans pulling for him, I know I do.
 

Speedbowl14

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I don't think so. Gordon had an equally horrific crash at Pocono in 04 or 05 and kept on winning. Darrel Waltrip should've been dead after creaming the inside wall early in his career at Daytona. Tony's tumble down the Daytona backstretch in 2001. I just really don't see any correlation. Yes there may be a very select few drivers who have a wicked crash and aren't the same again, but there's an equal number of guys who crash hard and win the next week. I just don't see it as a factor.
 

LewTheShoe

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I believe it can happen to drivers of all ages. Some are immune, dust themselves off and go on, and some slow down a tic. I believe it hurts more and is more common the older a driver gets. Fear of the crash, losing a tic on the reflexes can take it's toll.
From my first hand knowledge of motorcycle roadracing, SOI is exactly right, some are affected forever after a serious injury, while others are not. And you don't know in advance. You can't reliably predict whether a certain racer will recover great form or not. You only know later, after the fact.

It is a truism in motorcycle roadracing that you don't know how good a swift young racer is until after he has had a "big one" and recovered with his speed intact.

[P.S. -- I'm not talking about myself. I was never a significant player. But I've been close friends with several major talents, and acquaintances with a couple others, who dealt with injuries.]
 

aunty dive

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Niki Lauda comes to mind. The reigning World Champion was very near death after a hard, fiery crash at Monza in August, 1976.

Badly disfigured, he was back in the car in 6 weeks. World Champion again the following season and the guy got number 3 in 1984. Astounding courage. His era’s version of Alex Zanardi.

In this video, he talks about how he managed what was going on in his head as he lay in hospital:

 

Truex_rox

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Niki Lauda comes to mind. The reigning World Champion was very near death after a hard, fiery crash at Monza in August, 1976.

Badly disfigured, he was back in the car in 6 weeks. World Champion again the following season and the guy got number 3 in 1984. Astounding courage. His era’s version of Alex Zanardi.

In this video, he talks about how he managed what was going on in his head as he lay in hospital:

A true saint. I probably would have been rooting for him if I'd been around in that day and age. Pragmatic driver and a class act.
 

Team Penske

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I don't think so. Gordon had an equally horrific crash at Pocono in 04 or 05 and kept on winning. Darrel Waltrip should've been dead after creaming the inside wall early in his career at Daytona. Tony's tumble down the Daytona backstretch in 2001. I just really don't see any correlation. Yes there may be a very select few drivers who have a wicked crash and aren't the same again, but there's an equal number of guys who crash hard and win the next week. I just don't see it as a factor.
The factor is the size of their bank account. Jeff kept racing but was never as aggressive as he was in his earlier career. DW never fully recovered from owning his own team.
 

ChexOrWrex

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Jeff kept racing but was never as aggressive as he was in his earlier career.
Won 18 more races after that 2006 crash. 2007-2015 alone puts him ahead of drivers like Sterling Marlin and Clint Bowyer and equal with drivers like Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Geoff Bodine. Not to mention he had one of the best seasons in NASCAR history the very next season after his Pocono wreck.

Nah.
 

Charlie Spencer

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I don't know about declining, but I don't see anyone asking for more of that.

My first memory of Johnson was his Busch series wreck at the Glen. You'll notice older JJ doesn't climb out and stand triumphant on the car window.
 

Formerjackman

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I think hard wrecks coupled with age CAN have a real effect on drivers, but there are no absolutes. Darrell Waltrip was mentioned. While he did have success afterward, I don't think he was EVER as aggressive after his 1983 Daytona wreck, and CERTAINLY not after his 1991 Daytona wreck that broke his leg, and he has said as much. Of course, getting religion, having two daughters and maturing in age were likely big factors too. Ricky Hendrick was NEVER the same driver after his 2002 crash at Las Vegas, and retired by the end of the year. On the other hand, really bad crashes didn't seem to effect AJ Foyt in a mental way at least, right up to the end of his career. I think the same could be said for Richard Petty. The physical toll probably played a big roll in their loss of competitiveness, but I never got the impression either EVER stopped standing on the gas. The same goes for Dale Earnhardt Sr. Once he finally got surgery to fix some lingering issues, he was his same old self right up to the moment he died. Johnson's decline surprised me, for the very reason that he is such a physical specimen and doesn't have any lingering crash issues that we know about. How much the crappy cars he had to drive and the ever changing aero rules contributed to his decline as opposed to his mental state, we will likely never know. For most drivers I think experience brings the knowledge to analyze the risk-reward scenarios that younger drivers just don't have. When I was 16, I thought I was bulletproof. By the time I was 17, I was a passenger in two serious potentially deadly single car accidents. As a driver, I was never even close to the same as I was before that.
 

Formerjackman

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I don't know about declining, but I don't see anyone asking for more of that.

My first memory of Johnson was his Busch series wreck at the Glen. You'll notice older JJ doesn't climb out and stand triumphant on the car window.
I think JJ was just so happy to still be ALIVE, that he showed what for him was an unusual level of emotion. Remember that was an era when drivers were dying right and left. You couldn't not look at that wreck and not think of poor JD McDuffie......
 

Spotter22

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Just because a driver goes on and has a stellar career after a serious wreck doesnt mean it didnt effect him. Positive results can come from it ( teachable moments) just as well as negative.
 

harkin

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To people comparing accidents of different drivers, every accident is different.

I broke my neck surfing in Mexico which was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced and after I healed my surfing was not altered one bit.

I also broke my leg (compound tibia), deformed my shoulder plus had a pretty decent forehead laceration in a desert motorcycle race crash. My desert racing after I healed was nothing compared to pre-wreck. I just couldn’t reach that point where you’re ‘on the edge top speed every second‘ any more.
 

jaqua19

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Saw this posted about Jimmie, and was wondering myself if there's any truth in it.
I think this plays a role.

We've discussed the driving style, HMS decline, new CC as well as natural aging as part of Jimmies decline.

I don't think a wreck like this is necessarily traumatizing, but I think it puts things in perspective. Cup racing isn't the main priority in Jimmie's life anymore. He's older, his daughters are older and both are likely old enough to develop traumatic memories and you have to imagine family comes to mind when a wreck like this happens. It make take away that edge, maybe all these factors cause a driver to not drive in the corner as hard to get that extra half a tenth, regardless if he can make it stick or not.

I think a wreck like this, when you have a family that depends on you, shifts perspective.

Jimmie's fitness life outside of racing also is telling. His fire to win in the cup series seems diminished. He's older. If you take a look down memory lane to ,2002-2016, he was a different competitor. There was a fire to Jimmie that he doesn't seem to have right now. He got more excited for random race wins than some guys did for their first win, or a Daytona 500 win

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 

StandOnIt

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Jimmie was given an out to be able to continue to race the year after because of Covid, but he said no this is my last year. I think Jimmie is giving it all he has, I'm pretty sure he wants to go out leaving nothing on the table like the 7 time champ he is, but I also think it is more important to do it as safe as possible.
 

Pat

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I believe it can happen to drivers of all ages. Some are immune, dust themselves off and go on, and some slow down a tic. I believe it hurts more and is more common the older a driver gets. Fear of the crash, losing a tic on the reflexes can take it's toll. In Johnson's case I believe he has slowed down a bit, but he is still taking chances and running pretty hard. He is having a better year in awhile being in 11th place.
He is but a shadow of his former self :sad:
 

Turtle84

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To people comparing accidents of different drivers, every accident is different.

I broke my neck surfing in Mexico which was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced and after I healed my surfing was not altered one bit.

I also broke my leg (compound tibia), deformed my shoulder plus had a pretty decent forehead laceration in a desert motorcycle race crash. My desert racing after I healed was nothing compared to pre-wreck. I just couldn’t reach that point where you’re ‘on the edge top speed every second‘ any more.
Yikes. I actually had a surf-fin puncture through my hamstring when I was 11 years old, I went up in the air and the surfboard flipped over, came down on top of it. One of the most surreal feelings ever, reaching back to feel a hole in your leg. I can't remember how long it took me to get back on a surfboard but I did, and honestly don't think about it too much if ever.

Another time as teenager, this was a giant mistake, but I rolled a 4-wheeler down a sand dune trying to take a corner too close to the edge, it flipped OVER me, I saw time freeze in that moment I can tell you. I would be very hesitant to get back on one again.
 

Snappy D

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I think you would be remiss if you didnt believe a hard wreck wouldn't affect a driver's mentality in the future. I think it affects them all to some extent, to the extent it does though depends on the guy obviously. I thought the wrecks that Jeff Gordon took at the mid points and later in his career ( I remember him flipping at a Coke Zero 400 around 10ish or 11ish, it was AARP sponsored car I belive) maybe didnt take the fire out of him but it sure took years off his career by giving him back complications. I will say the Gordon in 15 his last year sure as hell wasnt making that balls of steel move that 99 Gordon made to win the 500 that year.
 

Conover

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Every individual is unique. Motivation, risk, life experience. Even science weighs in, as the human brain doesn't fully develop until the early to mid-20's...which affects decision-making and risk-taking. @LewTheShoe related his story about motorcycle road racing, and I guy I knew who did that said the exact same thing. He had no fear as a young buck, which made him FAST. After his first bad wreck, he tried to get back up to speed but just never got there and quit. It became a mental hurdle.

I suspect Jimmy's situation is a combination of risk acceptance, age-related reaction time/vision coordination and the equipment he's had over the last several years. Hendrick cars weren't so consistently great the last 2 years, until this season. His timing on subtle moves in traffic seems off.
 
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