NASCAR announces expansion to concussion protocol

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On Friday NASCAR announced an expansion to its existing concussion protocol.

The changes are part of the recently announced partnership with American Medical Response providing a travelling safety team for all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races.

The updated protocol adds a “consistent screening tool for all venues and increasing available neurological support.”

Below are the additions to the protocol.

  • As part of the new rule regarding damaged vehicles, a driver whose car sustains damage from an accident or contact of any kind and goes behind the pit wall or to the garage is required to visit the Infield Care Center to be evaluated.
  • NASCAR now requires that Infield Care Center physicians incorporate the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool in screening for head injuries.
  • AMR will provide on-site neurological consultative support at select NASCAR events during the 2017 season and will work directly with NASCAR in the continued development of concussion protocol.

“NASCAR has worked very closely with the industry to ensure our concussion protocol reflects emerging best practices in this rapidly developing area of sports medicine,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, in a press release. “We will continue to utilize relationships we’ve had for years with leaders in the neurological research field who helped to shape these updates.”

The updated protocol comes after 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed 18 races last year for a concussion. The concussion resulted from a June 12 crash at Michigan International Speedway, but the symptoms didn’t present themselves until week of the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway.

Matt DiBenedetto was forced to sit out the Nov. 6 Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway after being diagnosed with a concussion following a crash in a Xfinity Series race.

2012 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has been a vocal critic of how concussions are treated in NASCAR.

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Sunday Cup starting lineup at Michigan

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Chris Buescher will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway after finishing 20th in Saturday’s race.

The top-20 finishers Saturday have their position inverted for the Sunday Cup starting lineup. Clint Bowyer will start second.

Winner Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s race 20th.

Click here for the Sunday Cup starting lineup.

NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan 

Race Time: 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Track: Michigan International Speedway; Brooklyn, Michigan (2-mile speedway)

Length: 156 laps (312 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 40. Stage 2 ends Lap 85

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Michigan Cup starting lineup: Click here for lineup

Next Xfinity race: Aug. 15 at Daytona road course (52 laps, 187.72 miles) 3 ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Aug. 16 at Daytona road course (44 laps, 158.85 miles) noon ET on FS1

What drivers said after Saturday’s Michigan Cup race

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Here is what drivers said after the race Saturday at Michigan:

Kevin Harvick — Winner:  “Anytime we come to Michigan since I’ve been at Stewart‑Haas Racing these cars have been just lightning fast.  It’s definitely a place we feel like we should come up here and contend for the win, and today our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was just on rails, could go bottom, top, middle, was fast down the straightaway, would do everything that you wanted to do. Just got challenged by a whole bunch of restarts at the end that made it kind of crazy. But in the end it was a great day for us. Everybody did a great job, called a great race, and we capitalized on a fast car and put it in Victory Lane.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “(Kevin Harvick) is just super fast in the corners and the straightaway. He was definitely the best car out here today. We put a good effort to kind of maximize our day and that is what we did, finished second. Proud of everyone on the Discount Tire Ford Mustang team. We will go back to work on it and hopefully find a little bit more for the race (Sunday).”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “It was a good day. I just made a little mistake there and barely rubbed (Tyler Reddick’s) car off (Turn) 2 there and I guess cut both of our tires down. I really don’t know how it happened. My bad on that one. I hate it for Tyler, it messed up his day early as well. We just fought back. The Auto Owners Camry was really strong. If we could ever have gotten to the front, I think we would have had something for them. Lots of restarts and they’re crazy here. A couple of them didn’t work out. The last one did. Really good car and really good job by the guys coming back like that. Just need a little bit more.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 4th: “I thought our car was really good. I thought our Mustang was pretty good all day. We made a good call there before the competition caution to come in and pit and that cycled us up to 12th or something and we were able to drive to third before that stage and then ran second in the second stage. We took four tires there when we got in our fuel window and it was hard to get through traffic. We didn’t handle good so we came in again with maybe 18 to go and changed it up a little bit and made sure we were good on gas and were able to drive through there. I wish we would have kept third before that last caution because I would have chose the bottom and had a little better shot. I am proud of the effort. (Kevin Harvick) was really fast. We need to work on our stuff a little and I think we can compete a little better tomorrow.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “The car was pretty good right off the bat. There’s still some things we can tweak on, hopefully. I’m scared to mess with it to try to make it better. It was just really, really hard to deal with in traffic. Anytime there was anybody in front of me, I had to be away from them, whether lower or higher, but not follow. It would not track at all with the car in front of me. That’s kind of been our ‘MO’ actually. Overall, just work on that.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th: “I thought we were kind of a second-place car. Once (Kevin Harvick) was leading there, we were able to stay pretty close to him. He was just so much faster down the straightaway than we were. I’m not sure that we would have been able to do much with him. We were certainly fast in the corners and we were just kind of a second-place car. My crew chief (Chris Gabehart) was concerned about loose lug nuts there around lap 130 when the caution came out so he wanted to come and take tires and work on the car and make sure the lug nuts were tight. That set us back and put us probably 11th or 12th in line. We could only muster coming back to sixth.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 7th: “We had a strong restart there at the end of the race from the inside lane. When that next caution came out, I just didn’t see it playing out the same way twice, so I chose to go to outside lane. Our NAPA Chevrolet was just tight all day and the team worked hard to try and get it dialed in – they had a solid day on pit road. I think we learned a few things today that we can hopefully use (Sunday).”

Joey Logano — Finished 8th: “It was a good recovery. A little bit of practice this week would have been nice. That was one of the loosest and out of control race car I have had. At the start of this race. The clean air made us look better than what we were. As soon as I lost clean air I was just trying to hang on. Unfortunately I collected a lot of damage along the way on the back bumper from everyone hitting me. I don’t blame them, I was in the way. Over time, by probably the beginning of the third stage we got close. Not quite to where we needed to. Then there at the end we pitted and may have gotten to the other side of it finally. At least we know where the edge is so we can work on it for (Sunday). We got a top 10 out of it. If you had told me we were going to finish eighth after the first 50 laps of this thing I would have taken it but greed always sets in and you want a little more there at the end. We got our Mustang for tomorrow and we got to the other side of it. We should be in the ballpark.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 9th: “A solid day for us and our Victory Junction Chevrolet. I appreciate everybody back at the shop. I know this whole COVID-19 deal has been tough. I haven’t been able to go to the shop and show my appreciation and how much they really work and make our cars better week in, and week out. So, it’s been fun. We’re in the middle of ‘silly season’ right now, so my mind is there, it’s here. So, to come out with a solid top-10 finish is positive.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 10th: “With a shorter race we had a bunch of variables today, including a lot of restarts. When the spotter says, four and five-wide, and we didn’t get damage, I will take that any day. Our Monster Energy Camaro was really reliant on clean air, once we got back in traffic it was really a struggle for us, but we were able score points in the first two stages and battle back for another top-10 finish at the end. We know that we can do better, and we’ll get a chance to do that (Sunday).”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 12th: “We had a fast Ally Chevy all day, but restarts hurt us. It was up and down all day fighting traffic and weird things happening on the restarts. We are going to talk tonight and get a better plan for (Sunday). It’s a long day for these team guys but we will be ready.”

William Byron — Finished 14th: “It was a tough day for our No. 24 Axalta team. We worked hard to improve the handling of our Axalta Chevy as the day went on. Luckily we’ll get another chance at it (Sunday) and we’ll hopefully get a better result and stay in the playoff hunt.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 16th: “That wasn’t the day we hoped for, but we learned a lot about the way we set up our cars as a team. Proud of Stewart-Haas Racing and congrats to Kevin (Harvick) for bringing home the win. We’re going to take a big swing at it tomorrow and hope to build on that.”

TYLER REDDICK — Finished 18th: “We had some good speed in our No. 8 Chevrolet Accessories Camaro today at Michigan International Speedway, but we just seemed to get caught up in other people’s messes today. I was able to move up into the top 10 early in the race, but (Martin Truex Jr.) made contact with us when he had a tire go down, which gave our Chevrolet some left rear damage. It felt like we had a tire going down shortly after that, so we were forced to pit under green for fresh left-side tires. We had to fight hard to get our lap back and did, but then our right-rear tire went down and we had to pit to repair that under green as well. Somewhat luckily for us, that tire issue happened close to the end of Stage 2, so we were able to get our lap back with the wave around, stay mostly on sequence with the leaders and really get back in the game. We were making some progress after that and were up inside the top 20 when we got some additional right front damage from another on-track incident, so we had to hit pit road one more time for slight repairs but didn’t lose a lap. We were able to avoid a couple late-race accidents to pick up a few more spots but didn’t quite get to where we wanted to be today. Good news is that we get another shot at it with our No. 8 Chevrolet Accessories Camaro (Sunday).”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 19th: “We got back in traffic in the final stage and were really loose. You don’t want to be in the back at this place, it was like gridlock. We ran well early, got some positions in overtime today and we start second (Sunday) so I’m optimistic.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 24th: “I was pretty happy with the way our Toyota was handling during the second half of the race, especially on the longer runs. Good job by Dave (Winson, crew chief) and all the guys. We’re still lacking the overall speed we need to be more competitive. That will come. We have work to do to make things better for (Sunday). One good thing is we will have a much better starting position (24th) than we usually have, so hopefully we can take advantage of that and have a really good finish.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 29th: “It was a difficult day for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops, Martin Transportation Systems (MTS) Ford Mustang. We didn’t fire off like we had hoped, but (crew chief Drew Blickensderfer) and the team did a nice job of working on the car all race long and I felt like we had a pretty decent run starting towards the end. Unfortunately we got collected in that last wreck and sustained heavy right front damage and we had to pit for repairs and ultimately brought the car home 29th. But tomorrow’s another day and that’s what we’re focused on. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel for race two of the Michigan doubleheader weekend and score Love’s Travel Stops and MTS a solid finish.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 31st: “Well, not the result we were hoping for today at Michigan International Speedway, but the good news is we have another shot at it (Sunday) afternoon. We started off too free but once (crew chief) Justin Alexander and the team were able to tighten up the No. 3 Dow MobilityScience Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 we were really good. At the end of the race, we were loose, sliding around four-wide when another car ran us over from behind. It ruined our top-10 finish. We’ll pull the backup out and go get them (Sunday).”

Cole Custer — Finished 34th: “It was a tough end to the day for us. We had a pretty good car and made good adjustments throughout the day. There at the end we just got in dirty air and it was hard to pass. Our HaasTooling.com/Jacob Construction Ford Mustang was good but track position and clean air were so important.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “It was a long, tough day at Michigan International Speedway for our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang. We actually weren’t too bad to start off, just needed to be a tick freer at the beginning. Unfortunately, we had some contact with (Chris Buescher), which sent us into the grass and then we had multiple tires go down, which ended our day prematurely. Appreciate all the hard work my crew has put into our cars this weekend and all the support from our partners. Thankfully, we’ll have another chance in tomorrow’s race.”

Bubba Wallace places 9th, notes deal that will put RPM ‘over the top’

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Bubba Wallace scored his first top-10 finish in a month Saturday and teased a potential deal that he said will send his Richard Petty Motorsports team “over the top if we can get it done.”

Wallace finished ninth after starting 24th Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Kevin Harvick won the race.

“Everybody say a prayer for us,” Wallace told NBCSN’s Marty Snider after the race. “There’s a big deal on the line right now and this can only help so much. I’ve yet to check my phone to see the status of it. This will send us over the top if we can get it done. Been a lot of hard work off the racetrack from my team, everybody involved to make things better and that’s what we’re trying to do. So putting solid runs tighter and having awesome restart all night this is only going to help the effort.”

Wallace acknowledged that silly season also has weighed on him. His contract expires after this season. RPM owner Andrew Murstein has offered ownership in the team as part of a contract extension. There also is believed to be interest from other teams in Wallace.

“We’re in the middle of silly season right now,” he said. “My mind is there, it’s here.”

Wallace was pleased with the finish Saturday – his fourth top-10 of the year and the most he’s had in any Cup season – but seeks more performance Sunday.

“I know this whole COVID-19 deal has been tough,” he said. “I haven’t been able to go to the shop and show my appreciation (to the team) and how much they really work and make our cars better week in and week out. It’s been fun. …  To come out with a solid top-10 finish for us is positive. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

“I was not happy with the car, but I think that’s the racer mentality. I’m not sure if Harvick is happy about his car either. We always strive to be better. All in all a solid day.”

Saturday Michigan Cup results, driver points report

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Kevin Harvick scored his fifth win of the season, pulling away in overtime to win Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Brad Keselowski finished second in the Saturday Michigan Cup results and was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch.

The victory was the 54th of Harvick’s career, tying him with Lee Petty for 11th on the all-time wins list.

Click here for Cup race results

William Byron continues to hold the final playoff spot with five races left in the regular season. He leads Erik Jones by 16 points, Tyler Reddick by 19 points and Jimmie Johnson by 22 points heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan to compete the weekend doubleheader.

Click here for driver points report