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.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.