TALLADEGA, Ala — Rick Hendrick has seen it all in this sport. It’s why he’s not shocked the star drivers are speaking out the way that they are in efforts to get his Next Gen safer. Hendrick knows first hand. One of his drivers missed Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway due to concussion like symptoms suffered in last week’s race at Texas.
“No. I think these guys are concerned,” Hendrick said of if he was surprised to see Chase Elliott as outspoken as he was on Saturday. “He sees a teammate hurt. He saw Kurt hurt. He’s a young guy with a career ahead of him. Nobody wants to do something that they could fix and eliminate it.
“I think this has been on Chase’s mind. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everybody knows he’s just not popping off, that he’s concerned.”
Hendrick says for a sport like NASCAR is, you absolutely have to have the star drivers on track and can’t afford them sitting out and missing races like we’re seeing again.
“These guys are stars. You spend a lot of money, like, bringing them along over the years. Then to have ’em hurt, you have sponsors and everything involved, they’re in the Playoffs, they get knocked out of the Playoffs,” he continued.
“It’s not about the Playoffs, it’s about safety, having a guy that wants to be able to race again. We have done really well in the last 10, 15 years with safety in so many ways: the seats, the headrest, everything.
“This car, from the rear impact, it’s just like you’re sitting on a piece of steel. I watched a video of Alex’s hit. Those guys usually try to lean a little bit forward if they think they’re going to have an impact, then the whiplash back.
“We need to fix it as soon as we can.”
Hendrick said he talked with Bowman this past week and that he was on a roller coaster of symptoms.
“After the race, he said he didn’t feel good,” he said of Bowman. “But it was Monday morning. I didn’t know anything because he stayed in the car. Then Monday morning he didn’t feel well. They started working with him Tuesday. Wednesday was good. He felt much better. Then Thursday he backed up, he didn’t feel good, so he went to see the doctor.
“I think hopefully he’ll be back next week. I think he will. He’s feeling good today and yesterday. I guess he’ll go back and get evaluated here midweek.”