Dale Earnhardt Jr. featured in new concussion awareness initiative (VIDEO)

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Two years ago, the NASCAR world was stood on its head when Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled himself out of racing after the October Talladega race, citing a concussion.

It was a brave decision and one that was something of a game-changer at the time, considering the increased awareness of concussions and their impact – particularly in the National Football League.

Though in recent years, the number of diagnosed concussions in racing have gone down – and that’s a good thing – it’s still something that could be lurking around every corner if an impact is severe enough to have a head injury. It was still severe enough to end Dario Franchitti’s career, as occurred in his Houston accident last October.

Earnhardt Jr. had had a testing accident at Kansas on August 29, 2012, which was his first concussion that year, and ultimately meant he’d race with one for a little more than a month. His one sustained at Talladega that October was his second in three months. Here was his announcement that he’d pull himself out of the cockpit.

Now, two years later, Earnhardt Jr. will be featured in a national awareness initiative about concussions, as part of a new program initiated by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program is working to change the current discussion where two powerful messages are lost: Concussions can be treated, and there are evidence-based therapies that result in full recoveries every day.

A new online site – ReThinkConcussions.com – is being launched to reveal the available scientific treatments.

Earnhardt Jr. and David Ross, a Major League Baseball catcher who most recently played for the 2013 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox, are the two athletes and UPMC patients featured in the initiative.

A full release on the program can be found here. Meanwhile Earnhardt’s two-minute introductory video is below:

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).