Share This Page

Earnhardt to miss 2 races because of concussions

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 6:38 p.m.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. pauses as he talks about missing the next two races with his second concussion in the past six weeks during a news conference prior to practice for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series race in Concord, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. (AP)

CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew he had suffered a concussion in an August crash so jolting that other drivers tweeted about it immediately after the impact.

Earnhardt was too stubborn to see a doctor about it. He was too worried he would be yanked from his car, derailing his long-suffering Sprint Cup championship hopes.

So he kept it a secret until a 25-car accident on the last lap Sunday at Talladega left him with a lingering headache.

NASCAR's most popular driver sought medical attention from a neurosurgeon, who found Earnhardt had indeed suffered two concussions in six weeks and couldn't be medically cleared to race. Earnhardt said Thursday he will sit out the next two weeks — at Charlotte and Kansas — ending his championship chances.

“I would love to race this weekend, and I feel perfectly normal and feel like I could compete if I were allowed to compete,” Earnhardt said. “But I think that the basis of this whole deal is that I've had two concussions in the last (six) weeks, and you can't layer concussions. It gets extremely dangerous.”

Clearance to race after suffering a concussion isn't given until after a driver obtains a medical release.

“I think we've got a pretty good history of sending drivers to the care center and then also to a neurologist if we think there may be any cause to do so,” said NASCAR senior vice president Steve O'Donnell, who added that only nine drivers from NASCAR's three national series have suffered concussions in the past five years.

“His eyes did what they were supposed to do, his balance tests and so forth are perfect,” said Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon who consults with NASCAR and the Carolina Panthers. “The one test, the one symptom that is more important than all the tests is headache, and as long as there's any headache, the brain is not healed.”

Hendrick Motorsports tabbed Regan Smith to replace Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet the next two races. Smith had been scheduled to drive the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing in Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and AJ Allmendinger will drive that car in his first start since his July 7 suspension for failing a random drug test.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.