Raceday: Your guide to Sunday’s Goody’s 500

jutter@charlotteobserver.comOctober 26, 2013 

  • Race facts Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Track type: .526-mile flat oval Race distance: 500 laps or 263 miles Weather: Sunny with high in the low 60s. TV: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN. Green flag is 1:46 p.m. Radio: Motor Racing Network

Race preview

Concussion testing for 2014 already front-burner issue

While several Sprint Cup Series drivers expressed their support for NASCAR’s decision to implement baseline concussion testing in its three national series before the 2014 season, at least one remains skeptical.

Reigning series champion Brad Keselowski said he will keep an open mind but doesn’t think doctors understand race car drivers.

“Doctors aren’t risk-takers. We are. That’s what makes our sport what it is and when you get doctors involved, you water down our sport,” he said. “I’m trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no.”

Keselowski is concerned about the subjective nature involved in the baseline testing, an issue which has been raised in other sports as well.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed two races last season because of a concussion, called NASCAR’s decision “a great move.”

“It’s a great tool not only to help diagnosis but really to understand the type of injury and the style of injury that you have and how to treat that particular injury with the information that you get from the baseline test,” he said.

“It’s just valuable information. If you care about your well-being and your health and quality of life it’s a smart move to embrace.”


Notebook

Hal Needham, former stuntman and NASCAR team owner dies: Hal Needham, a longtime stuntman, movie director and NASCAR team owner, died Friday in Las Angeles. He was 82.

Needham served as director of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” for Burt Reynolds and from 1981-88he and Reynolds co-owned Harry Gant’s No.33, in which he won nine races and 13 poles.

During his Hollywood career, Needham won an Emmy and an Oscar, appeared in 4,500 television episodes and 350 feature films.

Earnhardt leads the way: Earnhardt Jr., winlessthis season, was fastest during Saturday’s final Cup series practice. Close behind was Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Joey Logano was fastest during Saturday’s first session.


3 things to watch

1. The drivers on the front row of Sunday’s race – Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson – have 12 Martinsville Cup wins between them.

2. In his first appearance at Martinsville with Joe Gibbs Racing in the spring, Kenseth led 96 laps – more than all his previous 27 starts combined.

3. Front Row Motorsports continues to make great strides. David Ragan will start eighth – the best qualifying result in the organization’s history.


Observations

• Both sides in the debate over NASCAR implementing baseline concussion testing in 2014 are right. Both also are wrong. Brad Keselowski is right when he says no one is more in tune with his health, what he feels and how it will affect him than he is. And that’s true for all of us. If every athlete approached their health with the same intensity as Keselowski, then there would be no need for NASCAR to take this kind of action. However, history has shown not all athletes are as forthcoming or as honest when it comes to injuries. That is where NASCAR is forced to look out for other competitors’ safety and for the well-being of drivers who won’t look out for themselves. But there is a downside. Regardless of the test involved, some diagnosis of concussions involves subjective criteria and NASCAR shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t. As one doctor friend told me: it’s the concussions that don’t show up in scans that are the hardest to diagnose and treat. Concussions are not like broken bones – it’s not always a clear-cut issue. So, who makes the subjective call and who sets the criteria? That is a reasonable question and one NASCAR and its participants should be involved in answering.

• Chevrolet can clinch its 11th consecutive manufacturers’ championship in the Cup series, and 37th overall, this weekend. If its top-finishing driver finishes ahead of Toyota’s top-finishing driver, Chevrolet will clinch the 2013 title.


Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service