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.