Larson back in race car after hardest crash of career

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Apr 13, 2018 at 7:04 PM

BRISTOL—It's the kind of hit every race car driver dreads.

Kyle Larson blew a right front tire at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday, sending his No. 42 Chevrolet heading for the wall. Moments later with little he could do to control the car, it slammed into the turn 2 wall as Larson suffered the hardest hit of his racing career.

In a Friday morning press conference for Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Larson addressed the violent crash and how it affected him.

"Yeah, I felt relatively fine afterwards, which was good. Initially right after, I got my left elbow on my seat on the carbon and then my right shoulder," said Larson, a five-time NASCAR Cup Series winner. "I think I kind of fell into the padding there when I hit the wall. My neck was just a little bit stiff, not too bad. The second day was probably a little bit worse, but it could have been way worse."

There have been no fatalities in NASCAR since the 2001 Daytona 500 crash that killed seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. Safety innovations mandated by NASCAR, the tracks and the teams have made racing safer than ever before.

Despite the innovations which include SAFER barriers that absorb more of the impact than concrete walls, head and neck restraints for the driver, and seats that wrap around the driver's body in a cockpit located more in the center of the car, there is still danger involved. Concussions were a major factor in the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Larson, 25, also races open-wheel sprint cars, which have a far worse track record than NASCAR when it comes to safety. However, racing by its nature involves danger and Larson is grateful for being able to walk away from Sunday's crash, especially after looking at the data and feeling the effect of the impact days later.

"Thankful that there are SAFER barriers and our team builds safe race cars," Larson said. "But yeah, one of my harder hits for sure. I think we turn like 44 or 45 g's (g-forces) with the hit, which is numbers-wise my biggest hit. I felt like Fontana a couple of years ago hurt worse. I hit more head-on, but yeah, they all hurt."

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