Earnhardt to miss rest of rac­ing sea­son with con­cus­sion

Baltimore Sun - - NFL -

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss the rest of the NASCAR sea­son — 18 races to­tal — as he con­tin­ues to re­cover from a con­cus­sion.

NASCAR’s most pop­u­lar driver first be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­cus­sion­like symp­toms in late July. He has been un­der­go­ing treat­ment from Dr. Micky Collins at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh Med­i­cal Cen­ter Sports Medicine Con­cus­sion Pro­gram. He’s also be­ing treated by Char­lotte neu­ro­sur­geon Dr. Jerry Petty.

“To say I’m dis­ap­pointed doesn’t be­gin to de­scribe how I feel, but I know this is the right thing for my long-term health and ca­reer,” Earnhardt said in a state­ment Earnhardt Jr. Fri­day. “I’m 100 per­cent fo­cused on my re­cov­ery, and I will con­tinue to fol­low ev­ery­thing the doc­tors tell me.”

Earnhardt said doc­tors have seen progress in his re­cov­ery and that he plans to be back in the car in Fe­bru­ary for the sea­son-open­ing Day­tona 500.

Joey Logano said he un­der­stands how dif­fi­cult this choice was to make for Earnhardt.

“I look up to him for what he’s do­ing. I know how hard that is to look out and want to be in­side that race­car,” Logano said. “Your life and your health is not worth risk­ing for the sport.”

El­liott Sadler, who drives for Earnhardt’s Xfin­ity pro­gram, said he had mixed feel­ings about his friend’s ab­sence. He knows how des­per­ately Earnhardt wanted to re­turn this sea­son.

“The flip side is I’m happy and proud of him to take a step back and get ev­ery­thing in line from the med­i­cal side,” Sadler said.

Jeff Gor­don and Alex Bow­man will con­tinue to share time in the No. 88 Chevro­let for Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports. Gor­don will drive four races, in­clud­ing Sun­day at Dar­ling­ton Race­way for the Bo­jan­gles’ South­ern 500, as well as Rich­mond, Dover and Martinsville. Bow­man­will fin­ish the year with eight more starts.

“Jeff and Alex will give us a great op­por­tu­nity over the rest of the sea­son,” team owner Rick Hen­drick said. “Jeff is one of the best of all time and knows our sys­tem. He brings things to the ta­ble that no one else can. Alex is a young driver with a lot of ta­lent, and he will give us a fresh per­spec­tive.”

Earnhardt has strug­gled with con­cus- Dar­ling­ton (S.C.) Race­way Sun­day, 6 p.m. TV: Chs. 11, 4 sions be­fore, in­clud­ing the 2012 sea­son when he missed two races af­ter suf­fer­ing two con­cus­sions over a six-week span.

NASCAR has been up­dat­ing its fo­cus on con­cus­sions and treat­ment pro­grams, be­gin­ning in 2002 in part be­cause Earnhardt ac­knowl­edged that he was un­able to fully con­cen­trate or com­mu­ni­cate with his crew chief af­ter an ac­ci­dent at Cal­i­for­nia. He self-di­ag­nosed him­self with a con­cus­sion, which he re­vealed weeks later.

More than a decade later, Earnhardt also spurred a base­line test­ing pro­gram that is now re­quired of all driv­ers ev­ery pre­sea­son.

“I know how hard Dale has worked and how frus­trat­ing this is for him,” Hen­drick said. “He wants to be back, and we want him back, but we want it to be for the long haul. We’ve had in­cred­i­ble sup­port from ev­ery­one in­volved with the team, in­clud­ing all of our spon­sors. They’ve put Dale’s health first ev­ery step of the way.”

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