DAYTONA BEACH — The concussion discussion remains an ongoing topic in NASCAR.

The sanctioning body continues to build its brain-injury data base and improving safety measures for competitors.

The issue was moved to the front burner when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was forced to sit out the second half of the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series with concussion symptoms.

Earnhardt ran the 2017 season and then retired. One of the factors was a concern for his health, specifically, brain health.

John Patalak is the senior director of safety engineering at NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in North Carolina.

“The superstars get the most attention, but from a research standpoint, we look at every injury seriously,” Patalak said. “We look at every crash seriously. There’s a full reporting system that happens, regardless of if there’s an injury.”

NASCAR’s concussion protocol starts with a baseline of each driver’s physical and mental ability and continues with a trip to a track car center to undergo testing after any crash.

Even if a driver wrecks and drives the damaged stock car to the garage, they are picked up by medical staff and whisked away for a concussion test.

Clint Bowyer, 38, has endured his share of crashes and wrecks in his 12 seasons of Cup Series duty.

“There is risk,” Bowyer said during NASCAR Media Day Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. “It is dangerous. It is not for everybody, but it is for me. That is what I grew up doing. It is in my blood. It is what I love doing.”

Despite NASCAR’s safety initiatives since the 2000 season, Bowyer said there is still no way race drivers can avoid injuries — or worse.

“Do I know there is risk involved and I could get a concussion?” he said. “I know it is worse than that. I could get killed out there.

“But I still put my helmet on and go compete because it is what I love to do. It is how I make my living. It is always going to be that way.”

It is much safer now than even five years ago on the premier stock-car circuit. Most drivers feel they are suitably protected.

“There is a lot more awareness about everything that’s going on and the procedures and the way that everything is handled in the infield care center,” Kevin Harvick said.

Harvick, 42, got into the Cup Series because of the most unfortunate terms, replacing Dale Earnhardt, the weekend after the icon’s death at Daytona in 2001.

Harvick praised NASCAR for its continuing safety efforts.

“I think every year there’s advancement in a helmet or a seat or the way that things are mounted; the things that you guys probably don’t see are just the constant updates that come from NASCAR and their testing,” he said.

“Really, that’s been the biggest advancement as I’ve been here through what will be 18 seasons now.”

But there is still more that needs to be done, said Brad Keselowski, who won the Advance Auto Parts Clash on Sunday.

“There’s a lot that is still not understood and a lot to answer and we’re a long ways from being able to accurately diagnose and certainly treat those things,” said the 34-year-old driver.

Aric Almirola, who won the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, said he doesn’t worry about concussions.

“I go out and I race and if I have a concussion and my doctor is worried about it, they’ll tell me,” said the 33-year-old driver. “I trust my doctors.

“I’m not a kamikaze pilot. I’m a race car driver. I’m a husband. I’m a father, so I’m not gonna do something to recklessly jeopardize my health.”