Following the announcement of NASCAR’s new concussion regulations, it is no surprise concussions were a popular topic at the Daytona 500 media day. Several riders were asked about their opinions on the new rules and the upcoming return of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the major race.
Most notably, racing superstar Danica Patrick spoke at length with Bob Pockrass from ESPN, calling Earnhardt’s injury a “good lesson.”
“I think that we’d like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers like we feel fine and nothing is wrong,” Patrick said. “But it’s our life. If there was someone that told me or, I would hope any other driver, if you have another wreck, you could have a serious problem, then they would [choose to] be out.”
She continued: “I would be out because I love what I do, but I love lots of other thins and I also love life. I’m too young to have it be over. It was a good lesson for a lot of people and a good education.”
Patrick has been a controversial figure in racing since joining the professional circuit in 2005 with the IndyCar Series. She is one of the best-known names in the sport, a media favorite and one of the only females in the heavily male sport. However, she has yet to finish in the top-five in any cup series.
Throughout her almost twenty years in racing, Patrick has also had her fair share of crashes and concussions.
“I’ve had concussions. Every time you crash, you have a concussion on a varying degree,” Patrick said. “When [Earnhardt] said something about having 12 concussions, I’m like, ‘I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.’ … It makes you think for sure.”
Of course, the most sought-after man of the day was Earnhardt himself. Having sat out most of the 2016 season due to a concussion, the NASCAR icon is making his big return to the track at the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt spoke with Dave Caldwell of the New York Times about how the perception of concussions has changed in racing since he first started.
“When I got my first concussion, in 1998, it was like, Wow. I feel dizzy, ha ha. I think I’ll go home and lay on the couch,” he said. “It was almost like I was braggadocious about it: ‘Man, I’m tough. I hit my head on the car.'”
These days, Earnhardt is much more cautious.
“It’s scary now, knowing everything we know. There’s still a ton to learn. We’re going through such a transition how we talk about concussions, how we treat concussions. It’s very interesting to me. Very educational.”
While NASCAR is currently championing the new concussion regulations, they have already come under fire for being ineffective. They will be put to the test this weekend when both Patrick and Earnhardt take part in the 59th Daytona 500 on Sunday.