Dale Earnhardt Jr gave a glowing endorsement to a new All star race format that includes restrictor plates, splitters used from 2014 and a way to ensure that the lead car doesn’t have an advantage, but one has to wonder why that would be when it is exactly that kind of racing that injured him in the first place.
While the original concussion happened during a tire test at Kansas Motor Speedway in 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr’s symptoms worsened a few races later at Talladega Super Speedway, where he was caught up in a multi car wreck at the end of the race. In fact, the incident was so bad that Earnhardt had to sit out two races to recover. Fastforward to 2016 and his concussion like symptoms returned after a series of bad crashes throughout the season.
With that brief history of Earnhardt Jr’s battle with concussions in mind, why would he be willing ot advocate for such a bloodbath style race as the one NASCAR officials have announced for The All star Race this year. Maybe its due to the fact that drivers will be going at considerably lower speeds then that at Talladega and Daytona, but there is always the possibility of injury.
Unfortunately for NASCAR, who have struggled mightily to bring a sense of energy and excitement to The Annual All Star Race, they decided to implement restrictor plates and a measure that would ensure that a lead car doesn’t have an unfair advantage. This was done to create what is known as pack racing, which is really popular with long time fans.
And yes, believe it or not, its actually possible to enjoy pack racing without the wrecks, but a lot of people love restrictor plate races for just that! What many fail to realize though is that there are actual mortal men and women that are risking their very lives by competing in those type of races and the result has not always gone well.
Take The 2012 spring race at Talladega Super Speedway for example, where a horrific looking last lap crash by Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman left a fan injured and a stock car in shreds throughout the front stretch. Not only did the fan, who turned out to be a young girl need to be immediately rushed to the hospital for her injuries, several other fans were treated for injury on the scene.
Then there’s the 2017 Summer race at Kansas Motor Speedway, where Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Joey Logano, all were caught up in ghastly looking wreck that required Almirola to be taken out via the hood of his car. The wreck also put Almirola on the shelf for several weeks with a compression fracture in his vertebrae.
While Almirola was able to recover and eventually come back later on in the season, the wreck was a grueling reminder that NASCAR still wasn’t as safe as they thought they were and the incident proved it. Now keep in mind that none of these examples are related to concussion injuries, but they do set the precedent of NASCAR still not being as safe as they hoped.
For a incident related ot that of head injuries and Dale Jr’s retirement from the sport, look no further then that of Matt Dibendetto, who also had to take time away from the track due to a concussion. The incident occurred during a 2016 race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Dibendetto violently hit the wall .
The crash left Dibendetto on the shelf for a week and prevented him from driving in The Cup series the next day. While Dibendetto was a lucky case and very well could go the rest of his career with another concussion injury, others like Dale Earnhardt Jr, who retired at the end of that season, wasn’t that lucky.
In the end, it just seems hypocritical that Earnhardt would support something that could literally put them in the same kind of situation Earnhardt was in when he eventually had to walk away from the sport. With that in mind and the blistering high speeds that are known at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it could end up being a wreck a thon that leaves a lot of cars in the junkyard.
Sure, maybe that’s the appeal, especially since the proposed rules would create a sort of mini Talladega or Daytona, it also raises the possibility of wrecks that could put drivers in senseless danger for the pursuit of ratings . Again, it seems appealing and could work in NASCAR’s favor, but they sport is playing a very dangerous game by doing this.
In my opinion, Dale Jr should know how this story will end. While its entirely possible that everyone comes out unscathed in this year’s All Star Race, this sets the precedent for NASCAR to implement this structure at other tracks, which only be continuing the dangerously thin line between excitement and danger.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!