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IRVAN IMPROVES BUT REMAINS ON LIFE SUPPORT

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Ernie Irvan's condition is improving although he remains hospitalized in critical condition and is on life support, two days after the stock car driver crashed during practice.

Irvan, one of the top NASCAR drivers, hit the wall at about 176 mph during a practice session Saturday at Michigan International Speedway after the right front tire on his Ford Thunderbird appeared to be cut. He crashed into the wall in Turn 2 and sustained severe head and chest injuries.He remained unconscious in critical but stable condition at 9:30 a.m. EDT today, unchanged from his status of Sunday, hospital officials said.

"His vital signs over the past 24 hours have been stable and his blood pressure, pulse and vital functions remain on life support, which includes a ventilator for his breathing," Dr. Errol Erlandson, trauma surgeon on the medical team treating Irvan, said Sunday.

"The area of the injury to his lungs remains severe but improved. His oxygenation has improved," Erlandson said Sunday via a telephone hookup from St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti. "We see some increase in improvement on his chest X-ray examination today, certainly no worsening.

"In the area of neurologic or brain injury, our assessment today, which included a follow-up CAT scan of the brain, showed no worsening. Specifically, there were no areas of hemorrhage of the brain. There was no sign of increasing pressure in the brain. And we see no areas of the brain which have suffered irreversible injury. However, I would point out that the injury is still severe."

Erlandson said Irvan, 35, had no additional injuries, other than some facial bruises and cuts.

Irvan, who has remained unconscious since the crash, was airlifted to the hospital minutes after the accident.