ARCA driver swayed by Dale Jr. in opening up about possible concussion
ARCA Racing Series driver Sarah Cornett-Ching was involved in a scary incident on Lap 23 of the Crosley 150 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky, on Friday.
Unfortunately for the 25-year-old Canadian, her impact with the inside wall has left her with concussion-like symptoms that will sideline her for the ARCA finale at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 14.
Although her safety equipment and the SAFER barrier allowed her to walk away from her No. 2 Dickies Chevrolet without any other physical injuries, Cornett-Ching said she knows sitting out until she feels 100 percent is the correct move.
She said she feels that way more than ever after watching how NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has handled battling concussion symptoms himself this season. Earnhardt has not raced since early July and recently announce that he would sit out the remainder of the 2016 season.
“I’m not getting back in a race car until I feel better because if I can’t even keep track of people that are in the room, I don’t want to be behind the wheel,” Cornett-Ching told FOX Sports in an interview at her team shop on Monday. “Initially I wasn’t going to say anything about it because I didn’t want to look weak and I didn’t want to hinder any opportunities to get in a race car.
“And then I think that just looking at the Dale Jr. situation and what he’s going through, I feel like being transparent about it and just letting people know about what’s going on is probably a better avenue to take.”
Cornett-Ching was running on the tail-end of the lead lap when contact with the race-leading No. 32 Lee-Cywinski Toyota, driven by Shane Lee, triggered the violent incident. They had both just gone by the lapped No. 64 machine of Mike Senica.
“Going into Turn 1 my spotter said that the leaders were five car-lengths back,” reflected Cornett-Ching, who was working with a new spotter for the race. “I’m going around [Senica] coming off the corner and so I still think everything’s good and [the spotter] goes ‘outside.’
“At that point and time I was already here… so I just held my lane like that and then the next thing I know, like literally just two seconds passed and I was crashed.”
Cornett-Ching added that there was nothing she could have done differently, given what she had known at the time about the surroundings and the fact that had to keep an eye on Senica.
Lee, who placed ninth after a late-race crash with Kyle Weatherman, also provided his perspective on the incident.
“I watched the race in its entirety when I got home Saturday and you can clearly see [Cornett-Ching] drift up the track and turn across my hood,” said the 23-year-old from North Carolina. “I was happy to see Sarah walk away after; unfortunately it cost us as well. I understand racing hard to stay on the lead lap or even the lucky dog, but you have to give way to the leader.”
While Cornett-Ching was able to walk away from the incident, she knew something was not right as soon as she hit the wall.
“When I hit the wall it was like an instant headache,” explained Cornett-Ching. “The safety stuff in the car kept me safe physically — I’m hardly even sore — but my ears are ringing even in quiet room, my head is foggy… I can’t keep track of things that are going on very well, I have a constant headache and I’m just disoriented… I feel nauseous.
“There’s no treatment for a concussion other than rest, anti-nausea medicine and anti-headache medicine and just waiting it out, so Kansas is off the table.”
The ARCA Racing Series finale takes place at Kansas, where Chase Briscoe will look to wrap up his first title.
While Cornett-Ching won’t be a part of the race, she hopes to be back in a Super Late Model in November.
“I guess you don’t realize how much your brain can control the way you feel,” she added. “I’ve never had a wreck before where I got scrambled up like this so it’s weird.
“I don’t feel normal. I feel like out of myself, almost. If that’s the way Dale Jr. feels, I feel bad for him.”