Drivers say Dale Jr. revelation may reopen concussion discussions
Driver reaction to the news that Dale Earnhardt is sitting out this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway appeared to be uniform.
First of all, Earnhardt’s fellow drivers wish him the best as he attempts to recover from what he and Hendrick Motorsports say are "concussion-like symptoms."
Secondly, the news also at least presents the opportunity to reopen dormant discussions in the Sprint Cup garage about concussions: what defines them, how best to identify them, and whether or not NASCAR has the procedures in place to best do all that and get the proper treatment to those who need it.
"You think about it, but not when you are in the race car," Joey Logano said Friday at New Hampshire. "That’s a huge distraction if you think about it in the race car and you will never win again."
There is a time and place, though, to ponder the concussion questions, Logano added.
"I think when I’m away and not in the race car, in the shop and talking about that stuff, it’s something you should talk about," said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. "Your safety and your life is something you should put some thought into."
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, said it is difficult because so often it’s left up to the drivers to more or less police themselves on the matter.
"It is certainly not a good thing that Dale is not able to race and certainly I’ve sent my regards, but it’s a tough subject," Busch said. "It’s about how you’re feeling and you’re the only one that knows how you’re feeling. You can’t show these types of injuries as well as you can a broken bone or something to that respect.
"… It’s a tough situation to be in as a race car driver. I’ve never been in that situation where I have felt something within my head. I’ve got a lot of screws loose, but none that were that bad that I felt like I needed to go get looked at. And, so, thankfully I haven’t had that and hopefully I don’t have to deal with that."
Busch went on to explain that it simply isn’t something the drivers normally broach when they get together during meetings of the newly-formed Driver Counsel â whether as a group themselves or when they talk with NASCAR about issues.
That, of course, may change in light of the Earnhardt revelation.
"That hasn’t necessarily been a hot topic of conversation in any of our meetings — for us to look at what NASCAR has in place for us," Busch said. "We go through the impact testing. We do that as a baseline and then if we do have any injuries in which they suspect or they think that we need to go back through the baseline test again to make sure that we kind of match up, they’ll ask us to do that. I’ve never had to go through any of that so I can’t speak to what exactly the threshold is.
"If you get an A-plus on your baseline and you get a D on your next one, does that mean that you’re out of the car? There’s never been that sort of stance or that clarity from NASCAR or the doctors on what they think allows you to get back in the race car and what doesn’t."
More than anything, the drivers who spoke with the media on Friday at New Hampshire wanted to make sure they wished Earnhardt a speedy recovery.
"I don’t know any details about it, but I can say first thing that my thoughts are with Dale," said Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. "For him to step out of the race car, it must be something serious.
"I hope he recovers quickly and second I have a lot of respect for making the decision. I can’t imagine how tough that decision would be. Right now with the (Chase for the Sprint Cup qualifying) format, you do have the opportunity to take care of yourself, do what you think is right and still have a shot at the championship."