Matt DiBenedetto believes actions after crash contributed to concussion diagnosis

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Matt DiBenedetto said the way he exited his car after wrecking Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway might have contributed to a concussion diagnosis.

“There were a few things, and all of them lined up poorly for me,” said DiBenedetto, who insisted several times that he was healthy during and after a news conference Sunday to promote his No. 83 Toyota’s paint scheme supporting Dallas police officers slain last summer. “But they have to do their job, and I understand that. With all the things going on in sports, I’m not angry at them by all means.

“I’m just a racer, and it just hurts me inside to not be piloting my car.”

The BK Racing driver was placed in NASCAR’s concussion protocol without being transported to a hospital after his crash in the Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Normally, a driver seen by a board-certified ER physician at a track care center is sent to a local hospital for further evaluation and a series of tests generally including a CT scan and MRI.

NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long after the drivers meeting that DiBenedetto was diagnosed by a care center doctor with a concussion. After NASCAR consulted with concussion doctors Dr. Jerry Petty and Dr. Vinay Deshmukh in North Carolina, DiBenedetto was informed of the diagnosis and that he would be held out of today’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The BK Racing driver, who was replaced by Jeffrey Earnhardt in the race, disagreed with the diagnosis (“I know my body, and I know I feel perfect.”) but said he would respect completing the steps to get cleared.

“It wasn’t anything in particular,” DiBenedetto said of the reasons he was given for the diagnosis. “They just said (it was) based on things they evaluated. That was it. It was pretty much they took a look at everything from the time the wreck happened in between me being in the care center. They evaluated some of those circumstances.

“They decided they wanted to err on the side of caution, which I understand. They’re doing their job. My side of it, being in my body, vs. their side of it are definitely a little different, but I know they have to do their job being doctors. And they wanted to err on the side of caution.”

DiBenedetto intimated that a delay in lowering his window net – which drivers in a crash normally do immediately to indicate their well-being – was factored into the decision to hold him out.

“I was trying to be real safe, because there was still traffic going by for quite a while after I wrecked,” he said. “Usually, you want to drop (the window net) quickly, but I was being real cautious and just looking and waiting until the track cleared.”

Suffering from a balky left knee, DiBenedetto also said gingerly descending the banking from the crash scene might have played a role.

“That may have worked against me because it’s always real stiff after every race,” he said. “So that was a circumstance.”

Before being cleared to return, DiBenedetto must be seen by a board-certified neurologist or neurosurgeon with a minimum of five years experience in treating sports-related head injuries. He was confident of being cleared Monday and hadn’t been injured.

“Not the slightest bit,” he said. “If I’d redo the situation knowing how it would turn out, I could have sprinted (down the banking) or done jumping jacks. But everything happens for a reason.”

BK Racing co-owner Ron Devine said NASCAR was “doing the right thing.

“It’s not easy for any of us, especially all we have going on with that special car,” Devine said. “But at the same time, it’s OK to err on the side of caution in this case. I think they’ve done the right thing. Whether it was the data that they saw from the crash or the symptoms they witnessed. Whatever it was that drew them to that conclusion, they felt it was best he go through the process and just be sure.”

Dustin Long contributed to this report.

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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