Chat with Jerry Punch
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NASCAR pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch stops by to chat about the 2010 NASCAR season. He will also appear on ESPN2's NASCAR Now Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
Punch joined ESPN in 1984 as both a motorsports and college sports broadcaster. Since 2007, he has worked exclusively on ESPN's NASCAR broadcasts.
Punch worked as a mechanic and driver in high school and college, while also being a walk-on. backup quarterback at North Carolina State. He later graduated from Wake Forest medical school and went on to serve 14 years as the director of emergency room services at a Florida hospital.
Send your questions now and join Punch Monday at 1:30 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (1:31 PM)
We've got Jerry!
Matthew (Columbia, NJ)
Hey Jerry, have you ever seen a hit like the one Elliott Sadler took yesterday? I am glad he walked away and was not seriously hurt.
Jerry Punch (1:32 PM)
I have seen other impacts that were heavy but not ones that were that violent and just stopped. I just talked with him moments ago and while he is sore, he realizes how lucky he is.
Nick (State College, PA)
Two questions. (1) If it is 2000 and not 2010, what kind of injuries would you have expected Sadler's wreck to cause (something similar to what killed Dale, though not as severe?)? (2) Is Pocono going through with the plans and putting in the SAFER barriers on the inside walls before next June's race?
Jerry Punch (1:33 PM)
Nick, you're exactly right. After speaking with Elliot and seeing the impact, I would have to believe that he would be in intensive care, in critical condition or not with us at all, if this were years ago.
Jack (Brooklyn, NY)
Hey Doc, Days of Thunder recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its release in theaters. Do you have any memories from your work on the film?
Jerry Punch (1:35 PM)
Oh, I have so many memories of that movie, working with Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall. The fun stuff off the air are good memories, but they were so accomodating during the filming that they would defer to some of the other drivers and myself that were there of what we would say in certain situations. They also listened to us and changed the ending. THey were going to have it end differently, pretty hokey, with Cole spinning around backwards and changing gear and driving backwards for the win. They listened to us to change that.
Layne (big spring, tx)
Why has nascar not fixed all the areas of the track where this can happen? I thought we had leaned from the greg moore wreck, to not have anything solid that sticks out to hit.
Jerry Punch (1:36 PM)
We have learned a lot over the years, but in my lifetime, I have never seen a wreack at that point at Pocono. There have been wrecks other places, but never there. Now, because of this incident, it will change. The track had already made plans to change that back area. This was planned before the wreck, but will be addressed more significantly now.
Did Elliott seek any further treatment? Could a head trauma still cause problems long after the initial event?
Jerry Punch (1:37 PM)
He doesn't even have a headache and he has no neck pain, which is remarkable. His injuries are more deep bruises. His shoulder and collar bone are the most uncomfortable. He's going to require treatment for the soreness and bruising, which will be hard because he's supposed to be leaving in the morning for a vacation he planned long ago with his wife.
Ronnie (Columbia, SC)
From a medical perspective, is it safe for 52 year old Mark Martin to be racing in Nascar?
Jerry Punch (1:38 PM)
Giving the new cars, all of the safety parameters in the COT, this sport is so much safer than 10 years ago. If you've ever been around Mark Martin, you will see that he's one solid muscle. He's in great shape. He's probably in the top 3-4 of anyone in that garage. I would be concerned if we had some of the 50 year old drivers from 10-15 years ago, but not now.
What is the exam like in the infield care center after a crash like Sadler's? Do they take x-rays or check for internal injuries? Didn't Steven Wallace break some ribs in a recent crash, but he gave an interview after being released, and didn't seek care until he went to his own doc the day after?
Jerry Punch (1:40 PM)
You're right about Steven Wallace. There are no X-ray machines at the facilities. But they're not an acute treatment anyway. If you suspect a fracture, you're going to transport them to an area hospital. At the track, you're going to get him stable and determine the seriousness of injuries. It is simply for determining where you send them.
Brandon (Oklahoma City, OK)
What do you think needs to be done with the 88 team to get them to improve?
Jerry Punch (1:42 PM)
Well, if I knew the answer to that question it would be very valuable to Rick Hendrick. I spoke to that team over the weekend and they are adjusting. They adjusted the chassi. Dale Jr. is in better physical condition than he has in a long time. It just doesn't seem to be clicking. But I believe this team has made some progress with their on track competitiveness. They were making a run at Indy before they were taken out. They just can't catch a break. And it's momentum a little bit. If they can just get a top finish, it can help them get some momentum.
Diane (Los Angeles)
What is the preparation for pit road reporting and how does it differ from being in the booth? Do you miss the booth? You are great in both positions but the info we get from you on pit road is unsurpassed by anyone else.
Jerry Punch (1:44 PM)
I do miss being in the booth, Diane. I miss being upstairs and being able to tell stories and the history of the sport, because of our friendship over the years, I thought we had a great relationship up in the booth. With that being said, I also love being in the pit, talking with the crew chiefs and the other guys. I love being able to walk up to them and discuss strategy. My history in the sport allows me to do those things. So, I do miss being in the booth, but I do love my position on pit road. My best memories covering NASCAR occurred with me as a pit road reporter.
Do you believe that the safer barrier walls should be placed at every track?
Jerry Punch (1:45 PM)
I do, John. If you have a technology that's been tried and tested and been proven to increase safety, there's no reason to not use it. Just like when we figured out pennicillin killed infections, why not have it? If there's a place for danger on a track, the cars will find it, as Elliot did this weekend.
Jake (Irving, TX)
Hi Jerry, Do you think the Nascar drivers need to create a union to enforce safety rules and demand that unsafe tracks like Pocono are not on the schedule?
Jerry Punch (1:48 PM)
I don't think the union is necessary, I think the drivers voice their concerns. And the people that run NASCAR are very well aware that these tracks need to make changes. So few tracks have been allowed to sit. Pocono has been so loyal to the NASCAR family for years was one of the last tracks to have to make these changes. Quite honestly, they are put under some pressure by some environmental regulations to not remove the grass. They've had to deal with some beaurocracy there that did not allow them to move quicker. The NASCAR people realize that these drivers are the franchise. You do not want to get a Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson, or Mark Martin or Tony Stewart injured so they can not compete.
How has the 48 team gone from usually making the car better by the end of the race to getting worse the past few weeks?
Jerry Punch (1:49 PM)
John, I think the spoiler totally changed the game for the Hendrick cars as a whole. They will tell you in the wind tunnel there's not much of a difference, but on the track, the spoiler has made the Hendrick car very very tight. If you tried to loosen them up, the car gets worse. With that said, Hendrick's people have gone to work trying to build new cars. Mark Martin ran some of the new cars and it made a huge difference.
Shawn (Gastonia, NC)
What track is your favorite to work at? What track is the easiest to work at? Hardest?
Jerry Punch (1:51 PM)
I would say from a shear standpoint of size and configuration, Pocono is the most difficult. It's so long, in terms of time. Pit road is long. The garage areas are spread out. I love the short tracks. I love where NASCAR came from. Martinsville, Bristol. The roots of racing. One of my favorites has to be Bristol, because of the noise, action. Everything is so compact. If they have to fix the car, they take it 10 feet beyond the wall to work on it. We can show the people at home everything they are doing behind the wall.
Adam (Galax, VA)
With the report that Kentucky is getting an early July date, which track gets moved: Daytona or Chicago?
Jerry Punch (1:53 PM)
I don't know. I will say up front that I don't know specifically. However, I have heard rumblings that there would be some consideration to moving Daytona from July to the final race of the year. In November, fans can see a great race with good weather conditions. Having a plate race for the final race won't make the drivers happy, but it will make the race special from a drama perspective.
Jerry Punch (1:54 PM)
I appreciate the support over my 25 years of being a part of ESPN. I really appreciate the viewership and great questions. Hopefully we can continue to answer them on ESPN.com and over the air. Thank you very much.