Keselowski concerned about doctors’ input for concussion testing

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2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski doesn’t seem to be entirely thrilled with NASCAR’s mandate of baseline concussion testing for all of its national series competitors starting next year.

After qualifying this afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, the Penske Racing driver insisted that he’s “trying really hard to keep an open mind” about NASCAR’s new policy but also fretted over the potential input from doctors in determining when an injured driver can return to race.

“Doctors don’t understand our sport,” Keselowski said. “They never have and they never will. 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.

“I’m trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no.”

NASCAR announced this week that it would implement mandatory baseline testing via the ImPACT test, so doctors can have data on hand in the event they must evaluate a driver that may have sustained a concussion in an incident.

Keselowski appears to be particularly worried about what kind of score on the ImPACT test would be enough to get the OK from doctors to climb back in a car.

“If you have a test and you come back later and you score five percent worse, is that OK?,” he said. “Is it 10? Is it 11? Is it one? There’s a tolerance to everything we do in this world. There’s not a part on our race car that isn’t built to a tolerance. There’s not a part on the space shuttle that isn’t built to a tolerance. The same thing could be said for this particular field.

“What’s good? What’s bad? What’s the number? That’s really what’s relevant to the conversation, but if there isn’t a number that’s good or bad with this style of testing, then it’s a waste of time. It’s just another subjective field for doctors that don’t understand our sport.”

Tonight, Keselowski took to his Twitter page to state his case even further in a series of Tweets (listed here in chronological order, with the most recent at the end):

However, one of his peers had a more positive opinion on the concussion testing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed two Chase for the Sprint Cup events last year after suffering a concussion in a massive crash at Talladega. And for his part, he doesn’t understand the concerns regarding the ImPACT test.

“It’s not two plus two equals four and ‘Oh well, you chose three, you are out,'” said Earnhardt. “There is no right or wrong answers. It’s a test that really gives you an image of how someone thinks, how quickly they make decisions and how they make decisions, how they rationale.”

Noting that his ImPACT score was much lower after he was concussed than when he was recovering, Earnhardt supported the new policy and believes that the worries will eventually subside.

“I think it’s a really good move and it’s really smart,” he said. “I think once people understand, I encourage you to go take the test. It takes 30 minutes and you will know what the test means, how it’s scored, how your graded, if you will. It’s a really loose term. Then you will see a bit more of the doctors point of view and you will understand there is not a big need for concern on the driver’s point of view.”

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”