© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2002
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- NASCAR is taking steps to keep drivers with concussions off the track after Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed he drove in several races while unable to fully concentrate or communicate with his crew chief.
From now on, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Sunday, doctors at infield care centers may require a driver to undergo a CT scan if they suspect the driver has a concussion.
If the CT scan reveals a concussion, Helton said, a driver will not be allowed to compete until he obtains a medical release.
CART, the Indy Racing League and the NFL have similar policies.
Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who won his second straight Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, praised the tighter rules.
"That sounds like a good idea," Gordon said. "If you can't clear a CT scan, you don't need to be out there in a race car."
Helton also pulled aside Earnhardt to discuss the issue after the morning drivers' meeting.
"Most of what he said is between him and me, but he did tell me that I could have handled it better," Earnhardt said.
HOME SICK: Gil Martin, crew chief for Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet, returned home to Concord, N.C., after being diagnosed with acute bronchitis Saturday.
Martin, who was fighting the condition all last week, is expected to return this week at Talladega.
"We'd rather have Gil go home and get better so that he's ready and healthy for the remainder of the season," owner Richard Childress said. "It was a decision we all talked about, and we all look forward to seeing him back next week."
Butch Hylton, Jeff Green's crew chief in the Busch series, assisted Harvick's team.
HARD-LUCK WALTRIP: Michael Waltrip hoped to win at least one weekend race for his daughter, who turned 5 on Sunday.
But Waltrip blew a tire and crashed into the wall on the 20th lap of Sunday's race, finishing 26th. On Saturday, he was running third in the Mr. Goodcents 300 when he got a cut tire, crashed on the 156th lap and finished 33rd.
McMURRAY DEBUT: Busch driver Jamie McMurray will make his Winston Cup debut in a Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge at Talladega, nascar.com reported. McMurray is scheduled to move to Winston Cup full time in 2003, driving a Havoline-sponsored car for Ganassi.