|Helton created more questions than he answered|
We don’t know.
In press briefings on Friday by Stewart, Stewart’s team and NASCAR, we heard plenty of talk about the clearance “process.” Process? What process?
Again, we don’t know. And no one is talking.
As should be expected, Stewart appeared emotional and distressed throughout his brief appearance Friday before the media in Atlanta to read a short statement. He didn’t take questions, saying, “I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time."
Then he added, seemingly offhand, “Emotionally, I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway.”
So, from an emotional standpoint, who says he’s ready to drive?
We don’t know.
NASCAR President Mike Helton and Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, dodged repeated questions about the process following Stewart’s appearance.
Other than saying the decision to return was “100% Tony’s,” Frood refused to shed any light on the process.
“As you all know, when a driver's out of the car, there is that process (for returning). I'm not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we've been in close contact with them (NASCAR) throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.”
Helton was even more evasive, being careful that NASCAR didn't take any responsibility.
“As typical, our process calls for us to rely on third party experts to assure us that a NASCAR driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return. All those forms of processes were met and we cleared him based on those third party inputs from experts.
Helton was asked if the process including psychological or psychiatric reports.
“We received the ones that we felt were relevant under the circumstances.”
Asked again if the reports were from physiological professionals and how reporters should categorize them, Helton responded, “The ones that were relevant to these circumstances.”
This isn’t the first time NASCAR’s clearance “process” has been clouded in confusion. It was the last major sport to adopt a procedure for checking competitors for concussions. That happened only after Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted driving with a concussion.
And earlier this year it was Earnhardt Jr. who openly questioned NASCAR’s lack of information about the process used when Denny Hamlin was not allowed to race in California with what at first was thought to be a sinus infection.
Although it was later determined a small piece of metal in Hamlin’s eye caused his blurred vision, Earnhardt Jr.’s comments are as relevant now as they were then.
“NASCAR should put out a release and say, ‘This is the timeline of the events and this is why we made this choice and this is the protocol for going forward,’” Earnhardt said at the time.
“That answers everybody’s questions. Don’t have questions? I have questions. We shouldn’t have questions. We should all feel pretty comfortable with what happened.
“Why NASCAR did the things they did and the timeline, it would be good to know those things because the drivers are all curious and fans are curious.
“We should all know what happened and know why it happened and be done with it and not have to worry about it.”
Junior was right. We should all know what happened, why it happened It's the only way to be done with it.