A career resumed, a blank spot that lingers

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

September 29, 2002|By Sandra McKee

Concussions come with such frequency in sports, few people give them much thought after the initial cringe.

Oh, race fans know that if their favorite driver hits his head hard enough and often enough his career could be delayed or ended. Examples abound - Bobby Allison, Ernie Irvan, Steve Park, and the late Neil Bonnett among them.

But during a conference call last week, Dale Jarrett drove home just how scary and long-lasting concussions can be.

A year ago at Kansas Speedway, where the Winston Cup series is again today, Jarrett hit a wall and suffered a head blow.

"I don't remember anything about it," he said. "It's kind of strange. It was actually the first time I've had a concussion, especially one of this magnitude."

When he arrived in Kansas City last week, he could honestly say he didn't remember arriving last year. He didn't remember where the drivers' motor homes were parked. He didn't remember the garage area.

"The only thing I do remember is that entrance into Turn 1 and getting tapped [by another car]," he said. "From that point, I don't remember anything before the race started and I don't remember anything after that until I was getting on the airplane to come back to North Carolina. So it's all kind of wiped from my memory."

As far as Jarrett is concerned, this is his "first time" at Kansas City. He said it will be "interesting" to race there today.

He is "looking forward to it." That's because he doesn't remember any of the bad stuff.

Dale Jarrett has recovered from his concussion. But he still has a blank spot in his brain.

The next time someone on the race track gets something described as "just a concussion," we might want to think about just what that can mean.

Fishing for - fish!

Crew chief Kevin Blanch had no sooner returned home from celebrating the Indy Racing League championship with his driver, Sam Hornish, than he jumped into his fishing clothes and headed for a BASSMASTER tournament.

It seems it is Blanch's dream to one day be a pro fisherman. Whether he does or not, one thing is for sure, he has a unique way of looking at the world.

Storied Winston Cup crew chief Harry Hyde once compared a race car to an egg. "If you don't handle it gently, it'll break," he said the afternoon his driver, Tim Richmond, won his first race at Pocono, Pa.

For his part, Blanch sees similarities between the IRL and fishing. "It's unbelievable," he said. "Racing is adjusting on the fly, just like fishing - adjust on the fly, make split-second decisions.

"Fish that hole and catch a fish."

Tune the car this way and win a championship.

Needed rain takes toll

Rain came to Hagerstown Speedway last weekend, forcing the rescheduling of the Turbo-Blue Racing Gasoline Hub-City National 150 to Oct. 12.

The ITSI late models will open the program to fill the remaining eight spots in the 30-car field. Twenty-two drivers qualified before the rain came. Doug Burkholder of Chambersburg, Pa., had the fastest time of 19.057 seconds. Starting beside him will be seven-time track champion Nathan Durboraw of Hagerstown.

Others in the field are: Booper Bare, Gary Stuhler, Rick Eckert, Todd Andrews and Steve Francis, Frankie Plessinger, Marvin Winters, Andy Anderson, Tom Myers, DJ Myers, Jeff Rine, Dick Barton, Mike Atherton, Charlie Schaffer, Paul Crowl, Tim Wilson, Scott Haus, Greg Fetters, Bo Feathers and Travis Dillman.

After qualifying, the Hoosier Tires Mid-Atlantic 25-lap late model sportsman feature and Ernie's Salvage Yard 20-lap Pure Stock feature will run. The Hub-City National 150 completes the night.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Racing begins at 6 p.m. Rain date is Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.

A makeup date could not be worked out for last Thursday's World of Outlaws show. Reserved-seat ticket holders should mail their tickets to the track with a self-addressed stamped envelope for refunds.

Penalties add up

Jimmie Johnson is 30 points behind Mark Martin in the Winston Cup points race. But for a 25-point penalty by NASCAR earlier in the season for improperly placed bolts on his car, he'd only be five behind.

Meanwhile, Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, was fined $5,000 by NASCAR on Monday for cursing during a post-race TV interview. Knaus was expressing how hard his team was working for a title.

"I couldn't be more embarrassed about the way I handled myself in Dover," Knaus said. "What I said was extremely offensive, and I want to apologize. ... I know better."

Nuts and bolts

Maryland native Nick Woodward is scheduled to drive in the Taco Bell 300 for Late Model Stock Cars today at Martinsville (W. Va.) Speedway for car owner Steve James. James fielded cars for Woodward in 2000, when they were champions of the Atlantic Seaboard Region, South Boston Speedway and Southampton Motor Speedway and finished second in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series title.

"The Taco Bell 300 is the Daytona 500 of Late Model racing," said Woodward, who has finished in the Top 20 in two previous 300 attempts. "It's the event you gun for every year."

In the Sports Car Club of America Monterey Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca, Calif., three Ellicott City drivers were among the top 11 in their pro races. Jeff Altenburg finished seventh, and Neal Sapp was 11th in Speed Touring. Bob Miller finished eighth in Speed GT. Greg Merrill of Bethesda was 11th in the Speed GT class.

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