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.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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