Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Jeff Gordon to Sub Next 2 Weeks for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Jul. 20, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXX
What to Watch: Wednesday

- Today, the Camping World Truck Series races at Eldora Speedway.  Time trials begin at 5 p.m., followed by heat races, the last chance qualifier, then the 150 lap feature.


Wednesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Out Another Two Weeks; Jeff Gordon to Sub

Wednesday morning, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will sit out the next two Sprint Cup races.  Four-time Champion Jeff Gordon will come out of retirement to drive at Indianapolis and Pocono.  Read more

Christopher Bell Wins Final Eldora Speedway Practice

Under the lights, Camping World Truck Series teams had their final practice session.  Amidst a number of spins, Christopher Bell was quickest, but nearly a second slower than in the opening session.  ThorSport Racing teammates Cameron Hayley and Rico Abreu were second and third, followed by Kyle Larson and Ben Rhodes.  Read more

Tyler Reddick Paces Opening Truck Series Practice at Eldora

In opening practice Tuesday for tonight's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby, Tyler Reddick was fastest with an early lap of 20.797 seconds (85.808 mph).  Kyle Larson was second, followed by defending champion Christopher Bell, Rico Abreu and Bobby Pierce.  Read more

HScott Motorsports Announces Personnel Changes on Michael Annett's Team

On Tuesday, HScott Motorsports announced that Mike Hillman, Jr. will take over as crew chief of Michael Annett's No. 46, effective immediately.  Hillman replaces Jay Guy, who has been promoted to Technical Director for the two car operation.  Read more

New Hampshire NASCAR TV Ratings Drop 13 Percent

Another week, another ratings drop.  Sunday's New Hampshire 301 earned a 2.1 final rating, down 13 percent from last year.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Today's Featured Commentary
With Concussions at Play, Earnhardt Jr. is Better Safe than Sorry
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell

Despite auto racing's balls-to-the-wall reputation for daring, danger, and the occasional death, there's one universal truth that's important to remember.

It's better to be safe than sorry.

It can take the form of a driver backing off the throttle just a second sooner. It can take the form of a driver settling into line instead of adding a fourth lane down the backstretch at Talladega. It can take the form of a tire changer opting to hit five lug nuts instead of the quicker option of three. It can take the form of a crew chief calling for four new Goodyears instead of taking two, like everyone else.

Or it can take the form of a driver knowing when to see his doctor.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made the right call and erred on the side of safety when he opted to see his doctor about allergies that just wouldn't clear up promptly. Given Junior's history of concussions, including symptoms serious enough in 2012 to warrant him missing two weeks on the Sprint Cup schedule, playing it safe in advance of being sorry was the smart thing to do.

It's important to make good choices whenever possible.

Junior made good choices.

Everyone in sports knows the dangers of brain injuries, concussions, and what happens when such conditions go ignored. And it's not just the professionals in the stick-and-ball realm who need to be aware of what can go wrong and when to seek help. As coach of my son's Pee Wee baseball team last summer, my first official duty was to undergo league-mandatory concussion diagnosis-and-treatment training. The training earned me a certificate in how to handle player concussions, but it also earned me something far more important.

The training taught me just how minor the symptoms of brain injury or even a "mild" concussion can look. And the adjective "mild" is a serious misnomer; a concussion is a concussion, pure-and-simple.

To treat any head or brain injury as mild is to put an athlete in danger of greater harm, harm that may not make itself known for weeks, months, or even years. The good news is that most "mild" concussion symptoms can be treated effectively with rest. Ignoring the simple advice to rest can lead to greater dangers. 

That's the wrong time to be sorry for ignoring the harsh realities….

Regular readers of my columns know that concussions suffered by race car drivers is a somewhat ghoulish area of my research as a NASCAR/motorsports historian. I have given several lectures over the past few years about the effect of concussions on stock car racing, in particular the tragic outcomes of such NASCAR notables as Lee Roy Yarbrough (who was institutionalized), Fred Lorenzen (who requires assisted living), and Dick Trickle (who committed suicide).

And the list gets longer. Head injuries shortened the careers of Ernie Irvan, Steve Park, Mike Alexander, Ricky Craven, and Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. One can only speculate as to just how many other drivers over the years were poised on the edge of long-term disabilities from repeated blows to the brain against steering wheels, roll cages, and headrests.

What's most important is that the racing community is finally acknowledging the problem and striving for improvements. Helmets and cars are better designed and constructed, and medical protocols have been instituted. An even more significant development is the idea that drivers are agreeing to donate their brains for research into CTE-related dementia. Junior started the trend that's being followed by Fred Lorenzen and Dario Franchitti. Might we include names like Foyt, Andretti, and Allison? Now if only others, regardless of their history of injuries, will join the effort. Imagine the database we can develop given decades of trauma and awareness of just how serious often "minor" impacts can be.

The head might stop moving, but the brain does not. The unseen can lead to dangers unforeseen.

We often say that past experience is the best teacher, and – for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – that is certainly the case. It is because of Earnhardt's past concussions that NASCAR has instituted its baseline brain scan policy. Some preseason precaution will hopefully protect against future disabilities or worse.

Not seeing Dale Jr. turning laps at New Hampshire was a good start. Having Jeff Gordon swap retirement for a return to the Brickyard this coming weekend would continue Junior's necessary journey to full recovery. A driver cannot win if a driver is too injured to drive well. And when it comes to a concussion, no matter how mild it might be, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

For me, Dale's unspoken apology is wholeheartedly accepted….

Dr. Mark Howell is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at

as told to Dustin Albino

by Tom Bowles

by Amy Henderson

compiled by Aaron Bearden

by Dustin Albino


Q: The 1995 race weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park was rough on the track's infrastructure.  Just mentioning the weekend gives our own John Potts chills.  What happened at the end of the inaugural Camping World Truck Series race at IRP that year?

Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:

Q:  In 1991, Chuck Bown was in great position to claim victory in the Kroger 200 at then-Indianapolis Raceway Park.  However, a rare instance forced him to stop with 11 laps to go.  What happened?

A: Bown was leading under yellow when his safety belts came undone.  He then stopped on the backstretch in order to fix them. This happened while ESPN's Dave DeSpain was interviewing Bown's crew chief, Jeff Hensley.  The instance can be seen here.

Luckily for Bown, there were only six cars on the lead lap when this happened.  Bown dropped to sixth, but recovered in the final ten laps to finish fourth.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at tonight's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby in the Critic's Annex.

Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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