Ju­nior stays busy look­ing for ways to feel ‘rel­e­vant’

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

MARTINSVILLE, VA. — Dale Earn­hardt Jr. spent Sun­day at Martinsville Speedway, do­ing spon­sor­ship ap­pear­ances and watch­ing the Goody’s 500 NASCAR Cup race.

There was nowhere Earn­hardt would rather have been.

“I’m ac­tively seek­ing out th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties to be vis­i­ble and rel­e­vant,” said Earn­hardt, who is out for the sea­son with a con­cus­sion. “Like I tell (Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports owner) Rick (Hen­drick) all the time, be­ing in the car is what I’m sup­posed to do. When I’m not in the car, it brings a sense of guilt for not do­ing my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

As Earn­hardt con­tin­ues to re­cover from the con­cus­sion — sus­tained in a race in June at Michi­gan Speedway — so too has he grad­u­ally be­come more ac­tive and re­turned to the pub­lic eye.

He is mak­ing more ap­pear­ances now, not only at race tracks but in and around his Mooresville home. He re­cently at­tended a foot­ball game at Mooresville High, his alma mater. A few days later, he was in Martinsville help­ing the track an­nounce that it was in­stalling lights. Last week, he served as a guest com­men­ta­tor in the NBC Sports Net­work’s tele­vi­sion booth for the race at Tal­ladega and did so again Sun­day.

“I’ve been open and ex­cited to book all th­ese photo shoots and go to high

school games,” said Earn­hardt, who has been voted NASCAR’s most pop­u­lar driver 13 con­sec­u­tive years. “They’ve been real good times. Be­ing in the booth was

fun. Things like that are re­ally good for me.”

Earn­hardt again said he ex­pects to be re­cov­ered by the sea­son-open­ing Day­tona 500. He’s cer­tain enough of that to feel com­fort­able deal­ing with spon­sors who are al­ready lined up for 2017.

“My in­ten­tions are to race, that’s the plan we have,” he said. “We’re book­ing

things (with spon­sors) as nor­mal, with the an­tic­i­pa­tion of fo­cus­ing on the spon­sors’ mar­ket­ing with me as driver of the No. 88 car. That’s on track. It’s a rea­son­able goal. We can’t sit and wait. We’ve got to make de­ci­sions. Th­ese types of things have to be de­cided quite early.”

Earn­hardt watched Jeff Gor­don drive his car Sun­day. Alex Bow­man will fill in

for the re­main­ing three races of the sea­son.

“Ob­vi­ously I want to be in the car and to be around rac­ing,” Earn­hardt said. “But un­til that hap­pens, I’ve got to do things to keep busy. Be­ing at home is not real fun.

“Be­ing out here is not only good ther­apy for me. I want to be do­ing some­thing around the sport and feel like an as­set.”


Dale Earn­hardt Jr. poses with a mock up of a trad­ing card dur­ing a press con­fer­ence Sun­day at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va. Earn­hardt was pro­mot­ing a new pro­mo­tion for Goody’s prod­ucts.

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