My Brain on NASCAR: New season brings new fears for fans

col-cathyelliottI watched the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26 with my hands covering my face, peeking though my fingers like a skittish teenage girl at a scary movie. When it comes to frightening incidents, unpredictable plot twists and surprise endings, Stephen King has nothing on NASCAR. I was terrified.

The first and most obvious fear factor for me – and I suspect I’m not alone in this – was the return of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.

Many of you probably saw Marty Smith’s two-part interview with Junior on SportsCenter during the Daytona 500 weekend. Some of you may have even read Tommy Tomlinson’s fantastic profile of NASCAR’s most popular driver in the current issue of ESPN: The Magazine.

What we learned from both of these top-notch journalists, and from Earnhardt himself, was that his mental condition during his 18-race absence from NASCAR was far, far worse than most of us could have imagined.

He suffered from extreme concussion symptoms, things like eyes that continually vibrated in their sockets, and an inability to walk more than a step or two. Over the course of the interview, Junior told Tomlinson that he had experienced extreme depression, and fear, and constant worry over whether he was going to be good enough to resume his racing career.

Any driver would feel the same, but Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not just any driver.

I truly love NASCAR, and desire to prop it up as best I can, but let’s face it; our sport is in some trouble.
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have retired after long and illustrious careers, with seven championships between them.
Carl Edwards unexpectedly and voluntarily stepped away earlier this year, citing Earnhardt’s situation as one of the key factors in his decision.

At age 41, Jimmie Johnson is poised to make history in 2017 by potentially becoming the first NASCAR driver to win eight Cup Series championships. If accomplished, this feat may not be all that thrilling to legions of fans, since Johnson has to surpass Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. to get it done, but it would be impressive nonetheless.
Kurt and Kyle Busch are still going strong, with one Cup Series championship each, and after last week’s win in the Daytona 500, Kurt has some early momentum going. The Busch brothers, however, aren’t exactly beloved by the masses. Neither is 2012 Champion Brad Keselowski.

Denny Hamlin has displayed massive talent over the course of his career, but can’t seem to seal the deal. The same goes for Joey Logano, although I do feel that his combination of youth (he’s 26), talent, and aggressive driving style will find him hoisting a championship trophy in the not-too-distant future.
Kevin Harvick is always fun to watch (and listen to), but he’s 41 and if he’s going to win that second championship, he needs to get crackin’.

Chase Elliott looks like the face of NASCAR’s future, but by choosing to hightail it out of the racetrack following a “disappointing” 14th-place finish in the Daytona 500 after leading 39 laps, his PR skills might need a little work.
As the pole winner for the second consecutive year and NASCAR’s bright new hope, the press corps was definitely hoping to have some time with Elliott after the race. Unfortunately for drivers, media availability is part of the job, and disappointment can be as compelling as success.

NASCAR needs the perfect combination of personality, talent, pedigree and relatability in order to hold onto the fans who haven’t already tuned out, and there is only one candidate they care about: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It’s unrealistic and unfair, but his love of racing and his sense of responsibility to the sport seem to have led him to take what I – who am not a neuro-specialist of any kind – consider to be an undue health risk.
One more hard hit, folks, could prove catastrophic.

Is the joy we feel when watching him race, the deep personal connection fans feel to him, his family, his new wife Amy and the baby Earnhardts that are sure to come, worth more than his health? If the answer is yes, that’s just sad, and kind of medieval.

Like millions of my fellow NASCAR fans, I will cheer for Junior this year as he chases that elusive championship, and when he retires, I will miss him. I’ll be watching, but I have a feeling that my view will be an obstructed one, as no doubt I’ll continue to peek through my fingers and pray for safe outcomes for everyone concerned.

On a lighter note, my second concern for 2017 is learning the new, correct order of words in the name of NASCAR’s premier racing series before the end of the season. Honestly, it’s getting to the point where the series name resembles something out of James Joyce’s classic Ulysses, a novel which contains a sentence of over 4,000 words. I may have mentioned this before, but I think the way for us to go is to just call it Monster Cup. It’s shorter, cooler, and I can remember sequences of two.

Comments

comments

Lady Chiefs sweep season series vs. West Brunswick

Lady Chiefs sweep season series vs. West BrunswickThe North Myrtle Beach High volleyball team made sure that [more]

St. James takes runner-up at Lady Patriot Invitational

St. James takes runner-up at Lady Patriot InvitationalThe St. James High girls golf team went toe-to-toe with [more]

Photos: No TDs but loads of fun at Panthers' debut

Photos: No TDs but loads of fun at Panthers' debutA sellout crowd enjoyed the Carolina Panthers' 2017 home opener [more]

Lady Chants bounce back to claim first Sun Belt win

Lady Chants bounce back to claim first Sun Belt winCoastal Carolina women's soccer team got back in the win [more]

Carolina Forest swimmers win Socastee Invitational

Carolina Forest swimmers win Socastee InvitationalThe Carolina Forest swimming teams continued their successful seasons by [more]

CCU's comeback bid falls short in road loss to UAB

CCU's comeback bid falls short in road loss to UABCoastal Carolina scored 18 second-half points and only allowed 116 [more]

Chants open Sun Belt title defense with loss to GSU

Chants open Sun Belt title defense with loss to GSUCoastal Carolina began defense of its 2016 Sun Belt Championship [more]

NMB shows it's for 'Reel' with blowout of Socastee

NMB shows it's for 'Reel' with blowout of SocasteeIn a highly anticipated showdown between undefeated North Myrtle Beach [more]

Seahawks' D bounces back by pouncing on Panthers

Seahawks' D bounces back by pouncing on PanthersWill the real Myrtle Beach High defense please stand up? [more]

Sharks let one slip away as Bulldogs feast on fumbles

Sharks let one slip away as Bulldogs feast on fumblesOne week after pulling off an amazing comeback win, the [more]

Christian Academy works overtime to earn wild win

Christian Academy works overtime to earn wild winOn a big Friday night for public school football on [more]

Volleyball: MB wins home debut; Panthers sweep SF

Volleyball: MB wins home debut; Panthers sweep SFThe Myrtle Beach High volleyball team finally got the opportunity [more]

Golf: Panthers move to 4-0; Sharks roll past Seahawks

Golf: Panthers move to 4-0; Sharks roll past Seahawks Carolina Forest's Sami Spencer shot a career-best 3-under-par 33 to [more]

Lady Chiefs run away with big win over county rivals

Lady Chiefs run away with big win over county rivalsThe North Myrtle Beach High girls cross country team took [more]

Volleyball: Sharks prevail; Tomlin nets triple-double

Volleyball: Sharks prevail; Tomlin nets triple-doubleNo stranger to triple-doubles on the basketball court, Carolina Forest's [more]

Week 5 Previews & Picks: Local rivalries mark lineup

Week 5 Previews & Picks: Local rivalries mark lineupSo far WPDE TV and sister station CW 21's foray [more]

Saints volleyball gears up for another state title run

Saints volleyball gears up for another state title runFollowing a surprising run to the SCISA Class AA state [more]

Seahawks-Panthers game postponed to Friday night

Seahawks-Panthers game postponed to Friday nightThursday's televised contest between the Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest [more]

Coastal learns kickoff, TV times for next two games

Coastal learns kickoff, TV times for next two gamesThe Coastal Carolina Department of Athletics announced today its start [more]

CCU's Hardeman retains Sun Belt offensive honor

CCU's Hardeman retains Sun Belt offensive honorSenior outside hitter Leah Hardeman has been named the Sun [more]

Photo Gallery: Ideal starts for Braves, Chiefs, Tigers

Photo Gallery: Ideal starts for Braves, Chiefs, Tigers"Undefeated!" It's something not many high school football teams can [more]

Clemson defense comes to rescue in win over Auburn

Clemson defense comes to rescue in win over AuburnPowered by a defense that sacked Auburn’s quarterback 11 times, [more]

Gamecocks get big boost from Deebo to beat Tigers

Gamecocks get big boost from Deebo to beat TigersDeebo Samuel ran for two touchdowns to help South Carolina [more]

Chants forced to hit road, suffer loss to Highlanders

Chants forced to hit road, suffer loss to HighlandersCoastal Carolina’s soccer team lost a home game due to [more]

Illing's 5 TDs help Socastee flip the script on Seahawks

Illing's 5 TDs help Socastee flip the script on SeahawksIt's safe to say the Socastee Braves had this rivalry [more]

Lady Chiefs sweep season series vs. West Brunswick

Lady Chiefs sweep season series vs. West BrunswickThe North Myrtle Beach High volleyball team made sure that [more]

St. James takes runner-up at Lady Patriot Invitational

St. James takes runner-up at Lady Patriot InvitationalThe St. James High girls golf team went toe-to-toe with [more]

Comments are closed.

© 2017 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach