NASCAR Cup: Dale Earnhardt Jr. provides health update
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images from NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been giving updates on his health, specifically the recovery progress from the concussion-like symptoms that keeps him sidelined from NASCAR competition, on his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast. Monday night’s episode was entitled “Concussion Discussion” and was, perhaps, the most telling, especially when it comes to his symptoms, recovery and return to racing.
In his podcast Monday, Earnhardt said his doctors believe his symptoms are a result of an in-race crash at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., on June 12, although the symptoms didn’t arise until weeks later.
“Obviously, with my history of concussions, knowing the event I had in Michigan, that wreck right there is where they believe I picked up this issue,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t feel anything that next week. The off week, I went to Germany, went to Sonoma, ran good, felt awesome. It was strange these symptoms came out of nowhere. But we started doing a lot of digging, and they seem to feel confident this occurred in Michigan.”
Earnhardt added that there’s not a specific schedule for his recovery and eventual return behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, because he continues to struggle with vision and balance problem.
Earnhardt has a history that includes missing two races in 2012 because of a concussion suffered during a racing crash. Then, he also acknowledged suffering from concussion-like symptoms at other points in his career but keeping mum to avoid being taken out of his race car.
This time around, though, his experiences have been different, and that has had the driver concerned.
“I’ve never had a concussion that came on weeks after the event; most of them you feel it immediately, and then they get better over time, whether it’s 72 hours or a month. This has been the opposite,” Earnhardt said. “This is scary for me because of the way it’s been different. I’m having balance issues. I’ve never had balance issues before. The eye issues with the stability, I’ve never had that before.
“It started very slowly, gradually and continued to progress until it stopped and stayed where it is. I don’t know what that tells me about how long this process is going to be. I felt I had a good understanding of concussions in the past, but this is certainly a new one. They all have different symptoms and they all do react differently to treatment and they all have their own time and the length of the recovery is different for everyone.”
So far, Earnhardt has missed three Sprint Cup Series races and is certain to miss more. Alex Bowman filled-in behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 17. Then, four-time champion Jeff Gordon came out of retirement and has driven the car the last two races — July 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Monday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
While at Pocono, Gordon said he was available, if needed, for additional races.
“I will be here as long as they need me,” Gordon said. “I say that very loosely.”