Dale Earnhardt Jr. supports NASCAR medical policies – USA TODAY
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Though he initially expressed reservations about the lack of a timeline explaining how Denny Hamlin missed Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was pleased otherwise by how the incident was handled and resolved.
Hamlin returned Friday to his No. 11 Toyota, practicing for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway after being cleared medically this week. Joe Gibbs Racing said in a Wednesday release a sliver of metal had been removed from Hamlin’s eye that obscured his vision and sent him to the hospital shortly before Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
There was no official release from NASCAR about Hamlin being ruled out of Sunday’s race.
Earnhardt said Tuesday he wanted Hamlin or NASCAR to disseminate more information about what had happened because “the perception is bad” in its absence.
“I feel real comfortable with the process, and I just was worried,” Earnhardt said. “I thought the lack of a statement from Denny’s point of view left him vulnerable and unprotected. I felt it was important for him to have a very simple statement that cleared up any kind of assumptions or whatever you have for him, personally. So that was good on his behalf to be able to do that as quickly as he could.”
Earnhardt has been in the middle of trackside medical controversies before. In 2002, he said he raced for several months with a concussion, prompting NASCAR to change its policy to allow care center doctors to order CT scans for drivers if a head injury was suspected.
Earnhardt missed two races in Sprint Cup in 2012 with a concussion and admitted to hiding concussion symptoms for several weeks again. That prompted NASCAR to mandate baseline concussion testing for the 2014 season.
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Many drivers, including Hall of Fame candidate Bill Elliott in a 2006 autobiography, have lobbied that NASCAR implement a traveling medical and safety team to handle drivers’ health care at the track and extrication after crashes.
Earnhardt also has supported the concept in the past, but the 11-time most popular driver said Friday that he was satisfied with NASCAR’s medial policies at tracks, which staff their care centers with local doctors.
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“I feel great about the process and what NASCAR has had in place for years,” he said. “I feel like they bring in the best people from that region that have the best connections to the hospitals in that region.
“If I’m in trouble, I know I’m going to be somewhere where I can be taken care of very quickly. NASCAR has a team that travels and has all the information about our health, and it’s updated weekly as it needs to be. So I like the system we have in place. I feel like it’s adequate. I’m happy Denny’s cleared and ready to race this weekend.”
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