Burton Is Back For Richmond

Ward Burton has been cleared to race this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The driver of the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge suffered a concussion in a late-race accident at California Speedway last Sunday. He was held overnight Sunday for observation in a Loma Linda, Calif., hospital, and was released late Monday night.

Upon his return to Virginia, Burton visited a specialist, Dr. Charles Branch, at Wake Forest University Medical Center, referred to him by his attending physician in California. Branch is a neurosurgeon familiar with race car driver injuries.

“He (Branch) has worked with other drivers, including Dale Earnhardt,” Burton said. “He was the doctor who advised on Earnhardt’s neck surgery a couple of years ago. He has worked with six or eight different drivers with various injuries, so he has a lot of experience with our kind of injuries.

“NASCAR urged me to get an update and see where I was at before making any decisions on this weekend, so we went to Wake Forest. Dr. Branch felt like I was capable of running this weekend at Richmond and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Burton and team owner Bill Davis did decide, however, to have a relief driver standing by should Burton not be able to go the entire 400 laps of Saturday night’s Pontiac Excitement 400 at RIR.

“We would like to have a driver that can be standing by just in case,” Burton said. “It is difficult to find a driver that can fit in my seat and take over the wheel without a lot of adjustments. It will be a challenge for us to find someone. We’ve come up with a few names, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

“I hope we don’t need a replacement, but it’s nice knowing that someone is standing by to take over the wheel. I’ve been in worse shape than this, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem to run the whole race.”

Davis has been understandably concerned about Burton’s condition throughout the week.

“We are thrilled that Ward wasn’t seriously injured last weekend,” Davis said. “There is a short list of drivers that can fit into his seat, but we’ll come up with somebody that can come close. With next weekend being an off weekend for us, it comes at a good time to allow Ward time to get some rest and be able to recover from the hard hit he took. We hope with the off weekend he’ll be 100 percent by Charlotte.”

Burton has taken a dip in the Winston Cup standings as of late. After his 42nd-place effort at California, he’s 19th in the points.

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