I’d like to start this week’s column out with well wishes for Steve Byrnes, the host of Race Hub on FOX Sports 1. Byrnes posted on Twitter that he had developed some complications during his on-going battle with cancer. Byrnes is one of the nicest on-air celebrities I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and the outpouring of support from the NASCAR community has been huge. Keep fighting Steve, we’re all pulling for you!
NASCAR rook the week off for Easter last week so there was no on track activity for NASCAR’s big three touring series. Many times, what drives these columns, are things going on in the sport that I have questions about. Right now the only thing I can think of that I have questions about is, what in the heck happened to Kyle Larson the Saturday before the Martinsville race? Larson fainted at the end of an autograph session and as of today, there has been no reason given as to why that happened. Larson missed the race in Martinsville because he was hospitalized until the Monday evening after.
“After extensive testing and observation over the last few days, Kyle Larson was released from the hospital last night and has finished up final tests today,” the team said in a statement last Tuesday afternoon. “He is currently waiting for final doctor recommendations in order to clear him to return to all NASCAR related activities.”
Thursday morning NASCAR released the followings statement, “Following a thorough review of all the test results by his attending physicians and in conjunction with the medical staff from NASCAR, Kyle Larson has been medically cleared to return to all NASCAR related activities beginning at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend, April 10-11.” The statement continued that Larson would have a media session later that day.
“I feel great right now,” Larson started out the conference. “I felt perfectly fine shortly after I fainted the other day. But yeah, I just had to get a lot of tests run on me to make sure nothing serious was wrong with me, and all the tests came back negative. Yeah, the whole time I felt fine, and hated it that I couldn’t race this weekend in the Target Chevy, but Regan (Smith, who subbed for him in Martinsville) did a really good job, and just got to thank all the doctors and nurses for how thorough they were with me.”
About the incident Larson said, “I got through to the end of it, and I was just talking to one more fan, the last person there really, and just started getting light‑headed and tried to lean forward and maybe see if that fixed it, and then I passed out. I don’t know, it was just kind of a weird morning just because I was almost late to practice, so I just rushed myself that morning and didn’t take very good care of myself throughout the day and just ended up dehydrating myself. Just got to do a better job of taking care of myself, and that should never happen again.”
About the potential dehydration he said, “One of the first things they thought it was was dehydration, so they just ran a bunch of tests, like tons of tests on me just to make sure nothing else was wrong with my body. It all kind of circled back to just being dehydrated. Yeah, I mean, I got nervous a couple times throughout. Any time you’re in a hospital you get nervous. But I was confident everything was fine, and it turned out where everything in the end was fine. Like I said, just got to make sure I hydrate myself throughout the day better than I did that day.”
Due to the unknown reason for him fainting Larson seemed mature about missing the race in Martinsville. “It sucks any time you can’t race,” Larson said. ”But I was happy that they were taking the time to make sure there wasn’t anything major wrong. Yeah, I wasn’t upset too badly that I had to miss the race, and I guess if there’s a race you’ve got to miss, Martinsville is my least favorite track. But yeah, I would have loved to have been there. We had a really good car all weekend long.”
When asked if he was scared Larson said, “It took me a few minutes to figure out what all had happened, and then I started piecing it all together. I don’t know, I never get scared or excited about anything, so I wasn’t too scared. I was just hoping I could get released in time to race. Yeah, I mean, there might have been a couple times I was nervous ‑‑ maybe once, but other than that, I was fine the whole time.”
Larson is young (22 years old) and this is likely a wakeup call to take better care of himself. It’s well documented just how much exertion is expended in a race car at the Sprint Cup level. A hot day for 500 laps at the Bristol Motor Speedway can be excruciating and I’ve personally witnessed drivers being dehydrated and potentially suffering from carbon monoxide there. My main concern is for the safety of all participants including Larson. Now, there are many reasons why one becomes dehydrated, including common illnesses.
Perhaps as Larson matures he’ll know his own body well enough to know when things are amiss. I feel pretty confident that Larson will be acutely aware of his health situation moving forward.