CONCUSSIONS IN NASCAR

Concussions have been talked about in depth recently in the sports world. Thousands of players are suing the NFL because of the way it handled concussions in the past. Concussions may have led to two suicides this year of former NFL players Ray Easterling and Junior Seau who took their lives possibly because of the long term effects of suffering from multiple concussions. But it was not until a few weeks ago that concussions made headlines in another sport, NASCAR. This is when the sport’s biggest superstar, Dale Earnhardt Jr., announced that he would be sitting out two races because of a concussion that he sustained in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway on October 7. By doing this, he was essentially giving up any chance at winning the championship this year. But unlike the NFL, NASCAR has no way of testing for concussions or any protocol for sitting drivers if they have a concussion. Dale Jr. was sat down by his doctor because he went to him with headaches. Would other drivers that are in the Chase for a championship suffering from the same thing sit and lose any hope of winning? Two of the most popular drivers, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon, say that they would not sit. “If I was in my position, I’d probably hide it,” said Denny Hamlin, who is fifth in the standings, 49 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. “I’d race on, or at worst, I’d run a lap, get the points, get out and let someone else do it.” “Honestly, I hate to say this, but no, I wouldn’t (see a doctor),” Gordon said. “If I have a shot at the championship, there are two races to go, my head is hurting, and I just came through a wreck, and I am feeling signs of it, but I’m still leading the points, or second in the points, I’m not going to say anything. I’m sorry.” This may cause NASCAR to look at the way, or lack of a way, they handle concussions. There could be baseline testing done on each driver and the same test administered after a crash to see if the driver sustained any head trauma during the wreck. You can read about the specifics of baseline testing here: http://www.sportsconcussions.org/ibaseline/2011-07-08-05-45-58/testing-baseline. To implement such procedures would not only help with the safety of the injured driver, but the safety of all drivers on the track. I know if I was out there racing at speeds over 200 mph, the last thing I would want is the driver beside or in front of me getting dizzy and wrecking other cars because he is impaired by the effects of a concussion. DH

WHO WILL TAKE HOME THE 2012 SPRINT CUP?

Jimmie Johnson pulled out a victory at the Tums Fast Relief 500 in Martinsville; the race for the cup now is between two drivers. The 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski, who is trailing by only two points in the standings. Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne are 26 and 29 points behind, respectively. After an unfortunate turn of events for Denny Hamlin, he is now 49 points behind.

The next race is at a 1.5 mile track in Texas. In the past five races at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson has averaged a 7th place finish, including two 2nd place finishes while Keselowski only averages a 25th finish with his highest being 14th. One would argue that statistically, Johnson has the strong advantage in this race.

The second of the three races left is in Phoenix, where Jimmie Johnson has had tremendous success. In the past five races there, he averages a 5.8th place finish, including 4 top 5 finishes. Keselowski is averaging a 19.2nd place finish, with only 1 top 10 finish. The statistics for this race can be somewhat misleading, though, because this past March at Phoenix, Jimmie finished in 4th and Keselowski in 5th.

The final race of the Sprint Cup another 1.5 mile track, at Miami. This race seems to be statistically even. Over the past three races in Miami, Johnson has achieved two top 5 finishes averaging a 13th place finish. For Keselowski, in the past three races he is averaging a 19.33rd place finish with 0 top 10 finishes. However, last year Keselowski finished in 20th and led 11 laps, while Johnson finished in 32nd and only led 2 laps.
After looking at the past results over the past couple years, we have a pretty consistent veteran 5-time champion, Jimmie Johnson. Opposing Johnson will be up-and-coming Brad Keselowski who is definitely having a breakout year. He has 5 wins and 21 top 10 finishes this year compared to Johnson’s 4 wins and 23 top 10 finishes.
I believe these next three races will be very close and provide a lot of excitement for fans. While Keselowski is having the best year of his career, I believe that Johnson will eventually be crowned the champion for the sixth time in his career, placing him ONE title away from NASCAR greats Dale Earnhardt & Richard Petty. Who do you think will come out victorious at the end of the season? TH

[stats taken from http://www.driveraverages.com]

Have NASCAR Rules Become Too Stringent?

Have officials in NASCAR become too tough on drivers and car specifications? If you were to ask Clint Bowyer, I’m sure he would say absolutely. After his win in New Hampshire, Clint Bowyer thought he was one step closer to his first Sprint Cup championship, but during a post race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center, officials found that the backend of the car did not meet regulations. Instead of being second in points after the win, Bowyer was docked 150 points and wound up in twelfth. Bowyer and owner Richard Childress had been warned about issues with the rear of the car after the Richmond race, but no further action was taken until his win at New Hampshire. Bowyer was certain that the car was legal before the race and thinks it must have been damaged when the car was pushed into the winner’s circle or during the cool down lap after the race, according to ESPN.
It seems that the officials should consider the damage that happens to the cars during a race. With bump drafting rules being lightened, cars are receiving more damage than the past few years. I think that if NASCAR wants to add more excitement by allowing more bumping and banging around, it should adjust the rules and templates to match. I think that if NASCAR is worried about car tolerances and specifications, it should do more pre-race inspections. While this may not be feasible, it would add more to the fairness of the current rules. It would also alleviate the issue of cars not meeting specifications after receiving damage during or after a race. TL

NASCAR’s Drop in Attendance and TV Viewership

NASCAR doesn’t seem like it would be a very popular sport to many people, but it is. The NFL and MLB have not been lacking in viewership and attendance but recently NASCAR has seen a drop in viewership and attendance. Why is this? What is the cause for people not wanting to see the second most popular sport in America? Is NASCAR really losing fans or are the fans just not caring as much?

I think NASCAR TV viewership has decreased for two main reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that more popular drivers are not racing as well as they did in the past. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon are some of the drivers I grew up watching and who always seemed to win. Although these drivers are still winning, they are not exactly at the top of the list as they were in the past. Drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick are beginning to climb the ladder. This change has actually caused me to stop watching the races. The second reason, which I believe is the more important, is due to the economy. The economy is down, people are losing jobs, people are trying to find jobs, and no one wants to spend a lot of money. One would think people would sit down and watch TV since they are not working, but it seems like they are doing the opposite. Even though people may not have a heavy budget, they seem to spend time doing things they didn’t have the time to do when they were working. Instead of watching TV, like a NASCAR race, people are out cleaning up the yard or straightening out the garage. They still may be huge fans, but the significance of watching the race has been overturned by something of greater importance. BW