Several drivers suffer from Charlotte’s high heat, humidity

Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin' the Tires

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

CONCORD, N.C. – It isn’t unusual to see a number of drivers needing fluids or oxygen after some of the hottest NASCAR races during the summer months but multiple drivers visiting the infield care center at Charlotte Motor Speedway said Sunday’s race was one of the hottest they’d ever driven.

Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Timmy Hill, Matt Dibenedetto and possibly others were treated and released after a grueling day of racing in the extreme humidity brought-on in advance of Hurricane Nate making landfall a few hundred miles south. The tropical system was being pushed by a high-pressure system across the unusually warm Carolinas and created a sweatbox-like condition inside the racecar. NASCAR was still gathering a list of drivers affected by the heat but confirmed all had been cleared from the care center. As for DiBenedetto, he tweeted a selfie showing him drinking water in the care center with an IV in his arm, his blood pressure being monitored and a medical worker checking his vitals.

“Finished 23rd today…good effort by my team! I got a little toasty in the car but I’m all good now after a quick IV,” he wrote.

Busch slammed into the outside wall and crushed in about four inches of the rear fender of his No. 18 Toyota Camry but fought through an ill-handling car and the influx of exhaust fumes to finish the race. At one point, he told crew chief Adam Stevens that it felt like the temps in the car were up over 100-degrees from prior to the incident. Soon after he told Stevens he would need medical care after the race and when he exited the car he went and laid down in the infield grass where he put water-soaked towels over his face. He had already placed bags of ice inside the chest area of his fire suit during multiple pit stops.

“I am better now, I got heat-soaked and felt like I had heat stroke just being inside the racecar for 200 laps with the crush panels knocked out of it,” Busch said, after receiving oxygen and fluids in the care center. “Literally, as soon as I did, just coasting around under caution you could feel it being about 50-degrees hotter inside the car. It just got so hot, that literally, you felt like you were going to puke and just trying to make it to the end of the race. Luckily we did and from there just trying to get cooled back down and body temperature back to normal.

“They said my CO (carbon monoxide levels) was in the double digits. So, obviously fighting some of that to. Overall, that was the hottest I have been in the car. I didn’t feel sick from the CO or anything like that. I just felt heat stroke, you know, and I have had that before. Living out in Vegas you have that a few times when you are playing outside in the summers as a kid, so I knew what it was, I knew what it felt like but the only way to do it is to get out and get cooled down.”

According to the U.S. National Institute for Health’s National Center for Biotechnology  Information, CO is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gaseous substance and is the main byproduct of combustion fuels. The CO binds with hemoglobin, “forming COHb, and thereby renders the hemoglobin molecule less able to bind oxygen. Because of this mechanism, the oxygen transport by the blood and the release of bound oxygen in the tissues are decreased. Tissue damage results from local hypoxia. Organs with a high oxygen requirement, such as the heart and the brain, are especially sensitive for this effect.”

Dillon also had some minor damage to his car that resulted in excess heat from the engine and exhaust making it inside the cockpit. He agreed that the humidity exacerbated the problem and that it was the hottest he has ever been inside a racecar.

“Man, it was hot,” Dillon said. “I don’t know what it is about these overcast days but two of the hottest races I have ever been in have been overcast with high humidity. You bake inside the racecar and there is no air, so it is tough.

“My A/C went out at the beginning of the race and when I hit the wall it kind of leaked some exhaust in it too. So, it is probably the hottest I have ever been in my life but I got a quick IV and they kept dumping water on me every time I would come in to pit.”

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