Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends return to racing despite concussions

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. defended his return to racing despite missing the final 18 races of last season because of a concussion and his history of concussions.

Earnhardt was cleared Wednesday to return to competition after running 185 laps in a five-hour test at Darlington Raceway. He had not been in a car since the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. Doctors have pinpointed his concussion symptoms to a June 12 crash at Michigan.

The concussion is at least the fifth he’s had in his NASCAR career. He missed two races in 2012 because of concussion symptoms after a crash in a test at Kansas Speedway and a crash about six weeks later at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I wouldn’t be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and excited about driving cars if there was any risk other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday,’’ Earnhardt said Friday in a conference call with reporters.

“I feel very confident in what I’ve seen in myself, in my improvement. I feel confident in what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risks that I’m taking and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race car but getting into that unfortunate accident from time to time.

“We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came (this season), but I’m actually stronger. Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence. This isn’t uncharted territory for me. I know what I need to feel personally to know that I’m as strong as I need to be and healthy and I’m certainly feeling that way.’’   

Earnhardt also said he understands that it is his decision to return.

“I have a personal responsibility to myself to be smart, make great decisions for myself,’’ Earnhardt said. “My health is No. 1. Everybody in this room, (car owner Rick Hendrick and) everybody in the shop all put my health first. I’m not going to take any unnecessary risks with my own health.’’

Earnhardt noted that he recently had his head scanned to have a better fitting helmet. That was done, though, more for comfort he said. Earnhardt expressed confidence in the safety equipment he uses and is in his car.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.