Earnhardt Jr.: 'I Definitely Don't Belong in a Race Car Today'

Toby Graves
September 18, 2016

Earnhardt spoke Sunday at Darlington Raceway, two days after he and Hendrick Motorsports announced the sport's most popular driver would end his season as he continues recovery from concussion-like symptoms after a crash at MI in June.

Earnhardt is out for the rest of the year with a concussion, targeting a return for the start of the 2017 season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he's doing better in his rehab from a concussion suffered earlier this year, but that sitting out the remainder of the NASCAR slate is the right decision for him.

"The systems that are injured for Dale are the systems that make Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt - his ability to sustain focus and stabilize his vision when he moves his head and interpret complex visual information".

"He's going through vision therapy, he's going through exercise therapy", Collins said.

Dr. Micky Collins, the medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Concussion Program, joined Earnhardt for the news conference, along with auto owner Rick Hendrick. "We got well, and I had some of the greatest wins and experiences of my career shortly after that. If he had a significant force, that would cause an injury as it would anyone".

Earnhardt has already missed six races and will not drive in the season's final 12 events.

Earnhardt said he would test a Sprint Cup vehicle before returning to the driver's seat fulltime. "It was very scary and hard". We have races to win.

"He's telling me this is possible again and I believe him". But he acknowledges the decision to return may not ultimately be his.

Retirement "is not something I think about", Earnhardt said Sunday (via ESPN) at Darlington Raceway, where veteran Jeff Gordon drove the No. 88 vehicle to a 14th-place finish. His auto got jostled about three weeks later at Daytona and the symptoms started the following week.

"Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports "likes to say we've got unfinished business and I certainly feel the same way", Earnhardt said (via the AP)". "I enjoy it. My heart is there to continue and if my doctor says I'm physically able to continue, that's an easier decision for me to make".

"We've got a lot of time between now and Daytona", Hendrick said.

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Collins said Earnhardt has made progress but is not fully healed. "I enjoy it. My heart is there to continue". "I'm starting to see improvements there, which I was thrilled to wake up one day and feel a difference". My balance is miles better.

Auto owner Rick Hendrick said the sponsors have unanimously backed Earnhardt's cautious, get entirely well approach without squawking.

"The seat is his and I expect we've got a lot of time between now and Daytona", Hendrick said.

"I definitely don't belong in a race vehicle today by any stretch of the imagination".

"When I first saw Dale a month and a half ago", Dr. Collins said, "I can tell you he was pretty sick".

"My goal was to have Dale be a human being again and it is occurring in front of our eyes".

"Yes, we will be working on that as well".

"It gives me the confidence this is going in the right direction", he said. The 41-year-old driver made it clear that he still yearns to continue his career exactly where he left off before the crash. He has finished in the top-10 in 42 percent of his races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has no plans on retiring and hopes to be back in the race vehicle for the Daytona 500 in February. He wants to be back in a race auto like no other. We went through this process in 2012. But this isn't the end for Jr. he does plan to compete again.

"But we also don't want to take any risks to reinjure ourselves or put ourselves in a situation where we essentially erase all the hard work we did to get better". Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon have filled in during Earnhardt's absence and will continue to do so for the duration of the season.

Gordon said the team has not let the potential of Earnhardt never returning to impact its week-to-week preparation.

Other reports by MyHealthBowl

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