The Frontstretch: Voices From The Cheap Seats: NASCAR, Don't Be "That Guy" by Jeff Meyer -- Friday November 8, 2013

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Voices From The Cheap Seats: NASCAR, Don't Be "That Guy"

Jeff Meyer · Friday November 8, 2013


We all know at least one. We’ve seen commercials that warn us… “Don’t be that guy.”

That guy that sits there while watching a television show, be it a documentary or a popular crime show, and has to audibly affirm any given fact as if he knew it all along.

That guy that has been the longest and biggest fan of any given sports team, as long as they are successful.

That guy who knew, just knew, that that was going to be the outcome of any given situation.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s decision to sit out last year to recover from concussions started the dialogue about baseline testing… but NASCAR didn’t implement it for nearly a year.

That guy who will sit and talk and talk and talk, quite eloquently usually, but yet you don’t really believe a word he says, and you just nod a lot and say “yep,” all the while wishing he would just shut up and go away.

NASCAR is “that guy!”

Consider the new baseline concussion testing mandate they are implementing for all drivers next season.

Last year, the face of NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., voluntarily sat out a couple of races at the end of the season due to the lingering effects of two recent concussions. The world was stunned! Lots of questions were asked. They were questions that, in the world of NASCAR, had never really been asked before… at least, not that I can remember.

Why didn’t NASCAR already have a baseline comparison policy? After all, the NFL, NHL, and open-wheel racing, to name a few had been doing it for years. Why hadn’t NASCAR?

At the time, a lot of discussion was held and in the end, NASCAR really didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Just sort of slipped their mind, I guess. Or was it they just didn’t feel it was necessary? Of course, after the fact, NASCAR alluded that yeah, it probably is a good idea and we may do that in the future. That was at the end of the 2012 racing season. We are now at the end of the 2013 racing season and they just now got around to making it a mandate for 2014.

So what was the reason for the delay? The reason it has taken so long for them to say, “Hey, you guys all got to go take this very short, no wrong answer, test that we can use as a comparison should anything happen to you and we ask you the same questions to see if they match so we know if you are fit to drive?”

Turns out, it was simply that the drivers were too dumb!

“One thing we felt we needed to do was educate our drivers,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President for Racing Operations. “There were a lot of questions about concussions … so we wanted to take the time to educate them this year. We told them at the beginning of the year we were strongly looking at this, first and foremost for their safety. We took that time to educate them. We think it’s the right thing to do to implement ImPACT testing. It’s not the be-all, end-all of how we’ll evaluate a driver, but we think it’s an additional tool to help us, and believe it’s the best direction to go in for their safety.”

Wait a minute. This is the same sanctioning body that can, and will, suddenly change any damn rule they see fit, even in the middle of a season, and they couldn’t just say “Do it!” between 2012 and ’13?

According to Brian France, when it comes to rules packages or formats, they don’t need or want the general consensus of anyone but themselves.

“Anytime you change, somebody is going to be affected in a way that isn’t of their choosing,” he said recently. “Naturally, we don’t get a consensus on anything we might propose, in particular with rules packages or formats. But we have an express, clear goal that our challenge is to put the best racing on the track, let the best teams win, and have as much passing, contact and fun as possible. That’s what we’re after.”

To be fair, he was talking about changes to the car at the time. But we all know that statement is the norm across the board and is quite possibly the truest thing he has ever said!

On the subject of baseline concussion testing, France said that Dale Jr. was “courageous,” “set the tone” and “certainly contributed” to the implementation of the new policy.

But wait! Is that true? Let’s talk to Steve O’Donnell again, in the form of a news item, as posted on by esteemed racing journalist David Caraviello:

“O’Donnell said Earnhardt’s case did not specifically lead NASCAR to make baseline testing mandatory. The sanctioning body was already headed down that road, he added, when Earnhardt announced late last year that the symptoms from two concussions — one suffered in a testing crash at Kansas, the other in a wreck at Talladega — had forced him to see a doctor, which led to him being pulled him from the race car.”

Oh, so you all were planning on doing it all along!

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night! Dollars to doughnuts says that if Junior hadn’t ever said anything, NASCAR would never have even considered it. Only when Dale forced their hand on the issue did they suddenly realize it might “be the right thing to do!”

Either way, even if it did take a fancy building full of complete morons a full year to implement, it is a good thing.

There is, however, no damn excuse at all for not doing it last year!

Stay off the wall (lest they ask you again, what your favorite color is!)

Jeff Meyer

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11/08/2013 07:52 AM

The other big bang waiting to happen is fans possibly being killed at ‘dega.

Nascar has had several close calls there and still has not really addressed the issue. But they will sure show that footage on a commercial.

11/08/2013 08:03 AM

I’m getting pretty tired of everyone expecting someone else to protect them. Jr. was at least wise enough to step away thought I wouldn’t hvae blamed him if he wanted to drive at that time either.

Everybody is a pussy these days and NASCAR is just another to continue on the politically correct tract…..Green this and that, Drive For Diversity, and now this.

11/08/2013 12:15 PM

Amen RickP!! The sissy men have taken control of nascrap big time!!

11/08/2013 12:47 PM

Driver safety has never been a front burner topic for Nascar. Why change now?

11/08/2013 12:51 PM

My guess is that their attorneys told them that they could possibly be subject to some type of action. Particularly if a driver suffered a traumatic injury after they had cleared them to race.

11/08/2013 01:46 PM

Ha, yeah, just like the HANS device wasn’t mandated until after Earnhardt was killed.

JP, I have to agree. Considering the number of injuries to fans at Daytona when the Nationwide wreck happened, it amazes me that NASCAR just continues to toodle along the same old way. I certainly understand that I am assuming a certain amount of risk in attending a race, but having a car come through the fence and into my seat seems to be more than that release is worth. NASCAR went years (after Allison’s car got airborne & into the stands) w/o having a major incident. Ever since the COT was put on the track, there have been several incidents of airborne cars. Seems to me that the pre-COT cars w/the roof flaps stayed on the ground better than these cars do.

another Andy D
11/09/2013 07:19 AM

Maybe that NFL lawsuit had something to do with NASCAR moving toward concussion testing?

11/09/2013 11:28 AM

Once again, NASCAR is being “reactive” rather than “proactive”. Anyone who has a problem with the idea of baseline testing for any kind of head injury needs to sit down and watch the Bobby Allison Hall of Fame biography show that SPEED did back when Allison was inducted into the Hall in 2011. Yes, Mister Keselowski, I am addressing you! The show was played on SPEED last night (here in Canada) before the Truck race broadcast. Hearing Bobby Allison still saying he has no memory of his 1988 Daytona 500 win because of his head injury four months later is heartbreaking. This baseline testing should have been done long ago!


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?

Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.