Earn­hardt will try a sup­port­ing role

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - — George Diaz

Dale Earn­hardt Jr. re­mains on the mend with con­cus­sion-re­lated symp­toms, but he will be back track­side to cheer on his Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports team­mates this week­end at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

Earn­hardt — who shut it down for the rest of the year on doc­tor’s ad­vice af­ter suf­fer­ing a mid­sea­son con­cus­sion — prom­ises that he will be watch­ing the Xfin­ity and Sprint Cup races from the pit box.

He’s hop­ing that gives an ex­tra giddy-up to Chase qual­i­fiers Jim­mie John­son and Chase El­liott.

“It’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent and tough and maybe not a ton of fun,” he said on his pod­cast Mon­day. “It’s a bit weird to not be in the car but at the track. When you’re a driver, you don’t know what to do with your­self. I’ll try to sup­port the guys and learn a thing or two.

“Ex­cited to see how (sub­sti­tute driver) Jeff (Gor­don) does; he usually runs great at Dover.”

Earn­hardt also reported in­cre­men­tal progress with his health-re­lated is­sues. He said his vi­sion is­sues mostly have sub­sided, and his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ex­er­cises no longer are caus­ing bad side ef­fects.

“The only thing that trig­gers the symp­toms is go­ing some­where I’m un­fa­mil­iar with, go­ing some­where I’ve never been, where it is busy, a lot of peo­ple talk­ing, a lot of move­ment, a lot of vis­ual stim­u­la­tion,” Earn­hardt said.

Earn­hardt hopes to re­turn to com­pet­i­tive driv­ing next sea­son.

“I’m go­ing to be do­ing a lot of stuff that’s re­ally hard for any­body to do to im­prove the bal­ance and my re­sponse time and how Dale Earn­hardt Jr. says not all his con­cus­sion-re­lated is­sues have abated yet. quick I’m re­act­ing to things. [I’m] still work­ing on it and I en­joy the work.” Pit-stop changes? A lot of in­dus­tries are cost-cut­ting these days. NASCAR is no ex­cep­tion.

Dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing between team own­ers and NASCAR of­fi­cials to con­sider re­duc­ing the num­ber of pit-crew mem­bers go­ing over the wall from six to five, ac­cord­ing to Mo­tor­sport.com.

The move could hap­pen as early as 2017. Each team would be al­lowed to de­cide how to or­ches­trate its pit stops. The most likely sce­nario in­volves the elim­i­na­tion of a tire car­rier.

The mea­sure is also seen as a safety ini­tia­tive to de­crease the num­ber of peo­ple along pit road. Last word: Steve Le­tarte, NBC Sports NASCAR an­a­lyst, on Kevin Har­vick’s win­ning run at NewHamp­shire: “Har­vick has never been elim­i­nated in this Chase for­mat. This year he can say that again.”

BLAINE OHIGASHI/GETTY

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