NASCAR to employ traveling safety team for races this season

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR will begin using a traveling safety team, now that it has contracted with American Medical Response to have a pool of doctors and paramedics to treat drivers at the racetrack, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

AMR will provide one state-licensed trauma doctor and paramedic at every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race weekend. NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell said it represents a considerable investment by the sanctioning body.

While other racing series have a traveling set of doctors, O'Donnell said the Cup series contracted with AMR so it could have doctors who treat patients on a daily basis. There will be a pool of about four doctors who will rotate throughout the 38-race NASCAR schedule.

"One of the keys for us was to have that comfort factor. We think the care has been really good at track, but it's that recognized person that the drivers trust and that initial observation was someone injured or were they not," O'Donnell said.

The change does not match some other major racing series, where doctors often handle care beyond the track and are more focused on racing injuries and directing a driver's care. As part of the program, an AMR doctor will be named as the national medical director to oversee NASCAR's medical policies, track protocols and approvals of drivers to return to racing. AMR personnel have previously staffed select NASCAR races as part of contracts with tracks. The company also works major sports venues throughout the country.

NASCAR's previous track-provided doctors were often the same people, offering some consistency. The new deal, however, guarantees uniformity that NASCAR has not had -- a major criticism of body's safety efforts -- as the AMR doctors will be in the vehicles that arrive on the scene of accidents.

"If there was a way for us to upgrade what we already to do, we are always open to looking at that," O'Donnell said. "When we spent the time meeting [with AMR] on the philosophy of how they would go about being a partner and specifically how they could enhance our care that we give to the drivers, candidly this was a no-brainer.

"This was something that we looked at that drivers have looked at care [about] when you look at concussion protocols and all these things become more and more important as that initial look into the race car -- who is that, what are their qualifications and how are decisions being made for us became more and more a key area we needed to look at."

The doctors will attend only Cup events and won't be at standalone events of NASCAR developmental series. NASCAR officials had previously said that trying to implement a traveling safety team across all national and regional series was an impediment to a traveling safety team.

"This is a first year that we're going to look at it and anything we can improve upon, we're always open to that," O'Donnell said. "We'll look at how that works ... and see where we go from there."