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Jimmie Johnson on Dan Patrick: NASCAR safer than NFL

Aug 23, 2013, 12:34 PM EDT

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, thus far the only driver to clinch a spot in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, appeared on Friday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show, also broadcast on NBCSN.

Racing has long fought the stigma that it isn’t entirely safe, but so many motorsports championships have taken strides to improve safety and particularly so over the last dozen years. Some of the largest safety improvements in racing since the turn of the century include the creation of the HANS Device (Head And Neck Support), development of the SAFER barriers first at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and now at most oval tracks nationwide, and NASCAR’s own Car of Tomorrow and new-for-2013 Generation 6 car.

NASCAR Sprint Cup has not witnessed a driver fatality since Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500. Johnson took time to address some of the safety improvements and said in his mind, NASCAR is currently safer than the NFL, as it undergoes a transformation of its product to combat its own safety concerns.

  1. wallio - Aug 23, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I’ve told my wife time and time again, I’m safer in my race car than I am driving to work. It’s just a fact. And having both played football and raced, I would agree with Jimmie that racing is safer. I mean the NFL just made knee pads mandatory THIS YEAR! That’s a little extreme no?

  2. whitdog23 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    sorry jimmie — nobody has ever died during an NFL game

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      I think someone has but anyways he’s talking at this moment. I’m not sure if I’d say he’s right or wrong but one thing’s for sure NASCAR takes safety a heck of a lot more seriously.

    • midtec2005 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      Someone has died during an NFL game, I don’t remember the last time it happened though. Aside from that there have been a large number of debilitating injuries, many more than in NASCAR. I think there’s only one real exception to this statement, and that’s restrictor plate races. Those races are a ticking time bomb, for fans and drivers. NASCAR is lucky there’s only a few of them every year.

    • stiletto25 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Korey Stringer died on the practice field during 2-a-days. Would you like me to list all the players paralyzed while playing in the NFL? Or maybe I could educate you on the suicides due to head trama that has been the headlines of former NFL players. Oh BTW, a high school player just died last week after making a tackle on the field. And He wasn’t the only one over the recent past. NASCAR has done way more for player safety than the NFL. The NFL just shutdown production by PBS on concussions. whitdog23 I think you need to reevaluate your criteria.

    • mogogo1 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Actually not true: Back in the early 70s a player died during a game of a heart attack. And it’s been pure luck that nobody has been killed from breaking their neck or something similar.

      But safety goes beyond how many die during a race/game. Early onset dementia, heart attacks at a young age, chronic pain, guys who can’t walk any more by the age of 50…. The post-career life of an NFL player is pretty rough.

    • jcarne9014 - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      Chuck Hughes of the Lions is the player that died of a heart attack in the early 70’s. Here’s the thing if we are honest with ourselves…the main selling point of the NFL, and the thing most people watch for, is violence. All of these players know what they are getting involved in when they put on the pads. If you don’t want to get hurt, play tennis.

    • whothephuckru - Aug 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM

      They have had people die during NFL games and practice from heart attacks and from heat strokes

  3. wallio - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Whitdog, just because no one has died in an NFL game means nothing. So many people were dying monthy playing college ball (which was much bigger than the pros at one time) that Pres. Roosevelt banned it nationwide until the precursor to the NCAA was formed! Google “the flying wedge”.

  4. purplesectornet - Aug 23, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Pure unfiltered insanity. The speeds alone make it more dangerous, Jimmy and some of yall are talking complete nonsense…and the chance for a concussion is about that same…sometimes people posit things that are beyond the pale…this is one of those moments…oh and please tell me the last time spectators where hit by flying debris in a football game? Total and complete BS.

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 23, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      It’s pretty close to call, you say the speeds make it more dangerous but driving your everyday car at 30mph is more dangerous than driving a Sprint Cup car at 200mph. The football player has very little protection compared to being strapped into a customed made seat inside a tank wrapped in a marshmallow. I also think a Football player is much more likely to suffer a concussion.

      I’ll give you the last point on spectator safety, but as far the actual athlete I can’t call it either way. What Jimmie is saying isn’t totally insane at all, over the last few years all I can think of is Denny Hamlin’s broken back, and Dale Jr. and Eric McClure’s concussions, that’s what you’d be looking at in one NFL game.

      • wallio - Aug 23, 2013 at 4:51 PM


        A race car is built around you, to your specifications. Football equipment is sized, small, medium, large, etc. but otherwise is off the rack. Every car is custom, few if any football players have special stuff (Peyton Manning has a special helmet, but I can’t think of many others) Racing you HAVE to wear EVERYTHING, or you don’t race. Football, the more equipment you wear, the bigger the p***y you are. When I played I got made fun of for wearing a cup. Sorry, I like my “attachments”, I want them protected. Racing has none of that, you wear your gear, or you’re out. Simple.

  5. huduopr8r - Aug 23, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    More football players at every level then race drivers at any level, and I’m willing to bet more have died as a result of racing then football. Because he said it, ESPN will do an in depth Outside the Lines Investigation that will draw no conclusions but be completely over analyzed. Can’t agree here.

  6. laserw - Aug 23, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Why is anyone paying attention to a guy whose team has cheated and been caught cheating 14 times during his 5 shampionship titles?

    In the NFL there are over 1500 athletes playing each year; in Nascar there are maybe 45-50 (depending on who qualifies) – if you extend this to all series of sanctioned NASCAR type racing, you would have almost as many. But that isn’t what the cheater is talking about. He means CUP racing. Otherwise, we get to extend football to all versions of it, college and pro, NFL and CFL, and the misfit versions in the Arena league.

    What also is ignored is that there are likely tens of thousands of just NFL players who have played the sport. In CUP racing, there are under 500 who have raced in the premium league.

    We know the death count in NASCAR CUP is higher than in the NFL. That cannot be disputed. And since each NFL player is not wrapped in tons of sheet metal, it is ludicrous to say you are safer in a car. Duh. If an NFL player tried blocking James Mae Johnson when he tried to cheat on a restart, the NFL player will get hurt and James Mae won’t break a nail.

    What you have here is the princess James Mae trying to make himself look good while comparing apples with pinto beans. The comparison is just plain stupid and illogical. Like I said, when you start lumping all versions of NASCAR series together, you start to see a sport where injuries mount and so do the deaths. And you’d have to do that just to equal one season of the NFL.

  7. drylake - Aug 24, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    I look at statistics for racing accidents that resulted in the driver missing his next start because of injury. It is almost non existant in NASCAR now. There is so much car around you. Much safer than Indycar. NASCAR has three times the starts and way more miles raced, still injuries almost nil. Indycar has crushed vertabrae and broken wrists, and more exposure because of the smaller car and open cockpit. Dale Earnharts death was largely due to not wearing a HANS device. This was a true anomale. But neither compare with NFL for the potential of season and career ending injuries.

    • midtec2005 - Aug 24, 2013 at 2:31 AM

      Not sure I’d agree about Indycar. Wheldon died in 2011 and Paul Dana died in 2006 or something, I feel disrespectful for not knowing for certain on that one. That being said, nascar drivers with the current cars almost never suffer debilitating injuries. That happens to football players every year in the NFL. So I’m sure that even per capita over the past 5 years nascar is safer.

  8. drylake - Aug 25, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    Part of the mystique of auto racing is the danger, or percieved danger. Don’t know if JJ meant to show that their really isn’t any danger in NASCAR. Lot’s of wrecks, but nobody gets hurt.

  9. purplesectornet - Aug 25, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Unless of course you count the spectator in the stands…this is ridiculous in the extreme…

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