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Earnhardt Jr. joins restrained crowd

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 20, 2001

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. bowed, albeit uncomfortably, to peer pressure and common sense.

Citing recent conversations with fellow NASCAR drivers, most notably friend Jeff Burton, Earnhardt finally wore a head-and-neck restraint device, starting with Sunday's Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Unlike the more commonly used HANS (Head and Neck Support) device, Earnhardt opted for a Hutchens Device. The HANS includes a rather bulky neck brace. Hutchens relies more on straps across various parts of the body. "It's killing my (groin area)," Earnhardt said.

"It's pretty comfortable in some areas. But it's something my fellow drivers asked me to wear. And I think when guys like that speak up, it's something you ought to take notice to. So I'm going to try it out and see if I can't get comfortable with it, and see if it's something I can't start using more often in the future."

Only two drivers in the field, Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart, did not wear any head-restraint device.

About 75 percent of Winston Cup drivers have been wearing the devices most of this year, which began with Dale Earnhardt's death in a crash in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

UP THERE: Bill Elliott said he didn't have a winning car, though the No. 9 Dodge led the most laps, 57, and finished third.

"Obviously, we didn't have enough when it counted," Elliott said. "We put on two tires when our car got really tight at the end and we just couldn't keep it down the middle (of the corners). You can't do that here."

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