Earnhardt Jr. on his break: 'I had to do it'
Auto Racing Videos
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. disliked the attention caused by his concussions and nearly three-week departure from NASCAR but said Friday he returns to racing glad he took steps to make sure he is OK.
NASCAR's most popular driver, who had a hard crash Oct. 7 at Talladega that left him with headaches and his second concussion in six weeks, is returning this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. He was examined and cleared to return by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty on Tuesday, a day after he ran 123 laps during a test at half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
“I'm glad I did what I did. I'm glad I took the time off and made the choices that I made,” he said. “I had to do it. I didn't have a choice. I knew something wasn't right.”
Earnhardt missed races at Charlotte and Kansas and said it was frightening to know something was amiss in his head.
“Some concussions are really bad. And I don't care how tough you think you are — when your mind is not working the way it is supposed to, it scares the (expletive) out of you,” he said. “You are not going to think about race cars. You aren't going to think about trophies. You're not going to think about your job. You're going to be thinking about what do I got to do to get my brain working the way it was before.”
Earnhardt said the time away provided an education he now appreciates, including learning the difference between a concussion he suffered during a tire test Aug. 29 in Kansas that left him feeling foggy and fuzzy and the one at Talladega that left him emotional, filled with anxiety and “a mess.”
A trip to see concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins at UPMC helped alleviate the anxiety. It put Earnhardt on track to getting better and understanding his injuries.
“They put me on a physical and mental exercise program that I did every day. That really made the biggest difference. It was really crazy because I went to Pittsburgh a mess. I was just mentally a mess,” he said. “The doctors up there, we talked for the whole day and went through these exercises and did a lot of stuff and, in 12 hours, I felt really good. I felt completely different. I couldn't believe it.”
Earnhardt qualified 20th for Sunday's race. Jimmie Johnson (97.598 mph) is on the pole; points leader Brad Keselowski will start 32nd.
Johnson has won six times on the 0.526-mile, paper clip-shaped oval. Denny Hamlin, who is third in the points and qualified fifth, has won four times here.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Rossi: Crosby’s debt to NHL paid in full
- Funeral for Joey Fabus, honorary Bethel Park police officer, draws crowd
- Leechburg Road to reopen after two-vehicle accident
- Pitt coach Narduzzi adds N.J. linebacker recruit
- ‘Free’ wine kiosk initiative costs state Liquor Control Board $300K
- Nor’easter threatens Northeast with up to 2 feet of snow
- Penguins’ Fleury surrenders 7 goals in 1 period of NHL All-Star Game loss
- Bloomfield bookstore owner bucks naysayers
- Energy companies vie for experienced workers with skills in high demand
- Linemen commit to PSU, boosting Franklin’s recruiting class
- Chips in pucks, jerseys could alter how NHL games are analyzed