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On the tricky topic of concussions in NASCAR
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway because of a concussion, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had much to discuss from what should NASCAR do about concussions to if Fan Council members would still watch a race if their favorite driver was injured and not competing. Here’s what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council said:
What do you think NASCAR should do about concussions?
After news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would miss two consecutive races because of a concussion, Jeff Gordon said that if he were battling for a championship and thought he had a concussion, he would conceal it. Mark Martin stated that, "I hate the day when somebody like a doctor tells you whether you can or you can't (compete).” Fan Council members were asked what NASCAR should do:
61.4 percent said more stringent guidelines for examining a driver after a wreck and follow-up if necessary
21.5 percent said nothing, drivers know their bodies and know if they have a serious problem
11.6 percent said change the points structure where a driver could afford to miss a race because of injury
5.6 percent said "Other"
What Fan Council members said:
• If NASCAR insists on random drug testing under the premise that possible impairment from drugs is a safety threat to other drivers, how can they not consider potential brain injuries as an equally important safety threat?
• I don't know how to answer this, so I'll put it this way: Common sense tells you that if you are hurt, you shouldn't be out there. The right call is to stay home until you are healed up and come back stronger than ever. I'm not a race driver, but I can tell you this: If I was (hurt) and I had the chance to win the title (which I don't think Junior had anymore, by the way), there is no way in hell anybody would get me out of that car until after Homestead. I would look into the eyes of anyone who asked me how I was feeling and lie through my teeth.
• I understand how competitive the drivers are, but when football and hockey players who have played with concussions and other injuries start dying, you have to evaluate if it's really worth it. Way too many suicides, heart attack and early deaths. Junior did the right thing.
• I'm sorry to hear the position some drivers and others have taken on concussions. I applaud Dale for stepping up and speaking out. I am involved in the game of football, and have had extensive training in concussions, signs and symptoms, as well as their short- and long-term effects, which are scary to say the least. Concussions themselves are bad, but what compounds the problems are what happens to the brain if an athlete comes back too soon and suffers another blow to the head.
• NASCAR implements various safety measures because they are well aware of the risks the drivers would willingly take with their health and safety in order to win a race. The concussion issue is another instance in which NASCAR needs to accept responsibility for drivers' safety. The drivers fought against the HANS device. NASCAR mandated it for their safety. Many drivers—Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin included—applaud NASCAR for their aggressive approach to driver safety. In our society we have a responsibility to protect those who are unable (or unwilling) to do so. In NASCAR society, the sanctioning body has the same responsibility.
• They are independent contractors, right? Their decision.
• The point system is so stringent that a driver cannot miss a single race and still compete for the championship. This should be changed. If not, the drivers will continue to hide their injuries and keep driving while hurt.
• If you change the points structure so a driver could miss a race, you run the chance that a driver will “claim injury” for a track he just doesn't run well at.
• The letter Fred Lorenzen’s daughter wrote to Dale Jr. in care of Jim Utter should be required reading for all NASCAR drivers, owners and crew chiefs. A macho man isn't worth a darn when they have dementia or one of the other incapacitating illnesses.
Would you watch a NASCAR race if your favorite driver was injured and not competing?
94.0 percent said Yes
6.0 percent said No
What Fan Council members said:
• I'll be honest, if you consider yourself to be a REAL NASCAR fan, you should watch the race if you had planned to before, no matter what driver is in it. I consider myself to be a real NASCAR fan and I would watch any race, even if Jeff Gordon (my favorite) wasn't in it.
• I answered yes, but I only watched five percent of Saturday night’s race. If Junior had been racing I would have stayed home to watch, but without him I wouldn't clear my schedule just for the race. If I had no other plans then I would watch regardless.
• That's exactly what happened this weekend: I sat in those cold stands and watched every single lap even though it wasn't my driver behind the wheel of the 88. I'm a race fan. It's what I do.
• My favorite driver was NOT competing Saturday night and while it broke my heart, I would rather have him around for years to come than to risk it for a few races right now. I DID watch the race, granted not with as much enthusiasm, but pulled for Regan to do well in (Earnhardt’s) car. After all, it was still Dale's TEAM that was competing and wanted the best for all those guys who have worked so hard this year.
• I was shocked to hear that people were leaving because Junior wasn't racing. They paid all that money, took time off of work, etc., and left the track? They aren't true NASCAR fans. Then again, maybe this is why I personally have several favorite drivers/teams that I follow.
• Won't watch a race until Junior is back in the car. Some people think it's wrong to be like that but I tried to watch it (Saturday) and couldn't. I love racing and NASCAR, but I need someone to follow, someone to be my driver. I felt the same way in 1993 after Davey Allison passed. I had no one to follow and didn't consistently watch NASCAR races again until 1998 when I happened to catch a Busch race from the Glen and saw Junior racing. I was impressed at how well he did on a road course and found a new reason to watch consistently again. I've watched every week since then—until (Saturday).
• Love me some Tony Stewart, but I also enjoy the overall competition and have secondary drivers to follow. I enjoy the pageantry and tradition to each race beyond just the competition on the track.
• I am a huge Dale Jr. fan and still watched the race. It was strange, but I was rooting for my other drivers, as well.