Stock car Racing Dale Jr returns 2017
NASCAR: Earnhardt defends comeback plan
Friday, 09 December 2016
RACER staff / Images by Getty for NASCAR & LAT
After being officially cleared by NASCAR on Wednesday to resume his racing career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. defended his decision to do so in a conference call Friday with team owner Rick Hendrick, saying he is confident he is not taking on any special risks to his health despite his history of concussions.
"I wouldnít be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and excited about driving cars if there was any risk, other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday," Earnhardt said. "I feel very confident in what I've seen in myself and my improvement and I feel confident in what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risks that I'm taking and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race, but getting in that unfortunate accident from time to time."
Earnhardt sat out the final 18 races of the Sprint Cup season after experiencing concussion-like symptoms, which doctors concluded stemmed from his crash at Michigan in June. He previously missed races following a pair of crashes in 2012, and is believed to have had several other concussions related to racing incidents. However, after his therapy and discussions with doctors during his hiatus, Earnhardt said he's confident he is not only ready to race, but better equipped than before.
"We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came last year, but Iím actually stronger," Earnhardt said. "Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence. This isnít uncharted territory for me, so I know what I need to feel personally to know that Iím as strong as I need to be and healthy. Iím certainly feeling that way, but Iím also hearing the affirmation from my doctors that I can go back and drive racecars.
Hendrick said that while obviously delighted to have his star back in his No. 88, he was adamant that it not happen until both Earnhardt and his doctors were satisfied that the timing was right.
"First of all we care about him as a friend and a person. That's first," Hendrick said. "Just seeing him healthy and himself rather than trying to rush him to get back in the car. I didn't know if you just sat out and did nothing you would be OK. By Dale going to the right person and working his butt off, it has made him stronger.
"I really want to thank all of our sponsors...every single sponsor said his health is priority one: 'We don't want him in the car until he is ready, and we are OK.'
"Everybody is excited. Everybody if fired up. It is a great Christmas present for our company and our fans."
Earnhardt, who will marry fiancee Amy Reimann on New Year's Eve, emphasized that the final decision to return was his own.
"I have a personal responsibility to myself to be smart, make great decisions for myself. My health is number one," Earnhardt noted. "Everybody in this room, Rick (Hendrick), and everybody in the shop all put my health first and will always be responsible whatever situations we come across. Iím not going to take any unnecessary risks with my own health."
While he doesn't anticipate making any changes to his equipment in light of his concussions, Earnhardt hopes his case can help promote continued focus on the subject in racing and beyond.
"I think that as far as my own safety equipment, I feel real good about what we have," he said. "I did get my head scanned for new helmets, but that is just supposed to make them fit better, be more comfortable. I think Joey Logano got his head scanned for his Stiloís last year and he said it is the best-fitting helmet he has ever had, at least that is what I heard. They fit pretty good to begin with, but this might be a new level.
"Otherwise, I am just glad to have had the opportunity to get so much time between me and the events that Iíve had last year and the symptoms. That is something that I think is really important for everyone going forward, is that they take the amount of time that they need not just to get symptom free, but to allow themselves to heal and get stronger beyond the symptoms. We still have a couple more months of my brain being able to sturdy itself up.
"It is not something that I intentionally wanted to spearhead, but if have seen a culture change tremendously. I think that everyone in general, not just the athletes, but the public, the doctors...everyone, we are all learning something new every day. Mickey [Collins, Earnhardt's concussion specialist] sees two dozen patients a day with various types of injuries, various stages of injuries and so forth. And every day he learns something new; obviously he has seen a million people with the same thing that I had, but every day they learn something new. Every day as a patient I think you learn something new.
"It's incredible the progress that is being made, but it is happening right now. It is being taken more seriously, and I think that is great. I obviously don't want anyone to go through the injury much less the rehabilitation. But, it is great for folks that do get injured, whether they are athletes or they are working a job somewhere or they are a kid in school, that they know there is something that can be done. They know there is a place to go to get the help. One of the worst things is not knowing where to go, not knowing how to get the right help and get the proper treatment, because every concussion needs a different style of treatment to approach it.
"I think that is something that people are becoming aware of Ė that there are ways to get help so you can not only get healthy, but return to the activity that you love to do, whatever it is that you want to get back to doing."
NASCAR: Earnhardt Jr. cleared to drive
Thursday, 08 December 2016
RACER Staff / Image by LAT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been given medical clearance to return to the cockpit, six months after the Hendrick Motorsports driver was sidelined with concussion.
Earnhardt, who missed the final 18 races of the 2016 Cup season, received the green light after participating in an on-track test at Darlington on Wednesday under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr Jerry Petty.
He was clearned by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's test, oversaw Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012.
"I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that's exactly what happened," Earnhardt told NASCAR.com. "Actually getting in a racecar was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. When it's time to go to Daytona, I'll be ready."
Earnhardt completed 185 laps during the course of the nearly five-hour session.
The 42-year-old will not participate in the non-points season opener, The Clash at Daytona, in February. Alex Bowman, who filled in for Earnhardt 10 times in 2016, is set to reprise his understudy role in the No. 88 for that race. However, Earnhardt could appear in one or both of two upcoming tests; the first at Las Vegas scheduled for Jan. 10-11, and the second at Phoenix on Jan 31-Feb 1.
"He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the racetrack at Daytona."
Earnhardt returns with renewed focus
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Kelly Crandall / Image by LAT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't about to complain about his schedule.
One of the first drivers to begin going through the motions Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt was grateful just to be there. After missing 18 races last season because of a concussion, Earnhardt was given a clean bill of health in December and will return to competition starting with the Daytona 500 on February 26.
Of no surprise to anyone, Earnhardt says the season can't come soon enough.
"To get approved to race is one thing, to decide to race is another," Earnhardt said of the process to get cleared. "Mentally, you have to make the decision if you want to keep to racing, and if you want to keep racing, you got to go in 100 percent.
"This is a top, elite series of motorsports in North America and if you're gonna be out there you can't do it without [putting in] 100 percent, so I had to answer a lot of personal questions of myself and just really buy in. All that was a big process and I'm really happy with what I've decided to do. But it wasn't that emotional."
Being out of the car for any period puts a driver behind, Earnhardt says. While he hopes to jump back into his Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet and not miss a beat, there's an admitted anxiousness to see not only where the team stacks up, but if he has a learning curve ahead. There is also the added unknown of the aerodynamic package this year after NASCAR tweaked on the lower downforce package used at Michigan and Kentucky in 2016.
From a team perspective, Earnhardt missed the camaraderie of being around his crew. Thankful for the assistance that Alex Bowman (pictured at Homestead) and Jeff Gordon provided in his absence, there was also a bit of jealousy on his part because Earnhardt wished he were the one there.
Having been given that perspective, now whether it comes to being at the track of doing media obligations, Earnhardt said nothing should be taken for granted.
"You do take your job for granted when you're doing it every week," Earnhardt said of the NASCAR garage. "As a society, we get better and better at complaining. The drivers aren't any different; we moan and complain about everything. But when you get a chance to step back and watch it – I got a chance to be in the garage area at Dover and watch the drivers come in that morning from practice, and it was a real eye opening-experience to see. It was like an out of body experience almost to watch all that happen and looking at them and knowing that was me.
"I got to see the drivers from a different point of view and got to see the whole sport from a different point of view. Being out of the car certainly made me anxious to get back in, and I'm happy to able to come back here and continue to compete."
With no timetable on when he wants to retire, Earnhardt said the one thing he does know is that he hopes someone else will not have to make that decision for him. But with his concussion, it was close to happening.
Of course, the offseason goes by quickly, and the obligations never stop, but being a driver an incredible position to be in. All those aspects, to Earnhardt, are a fun part of the job.
"I can see how you get wound up and burned out a little bit," Earnhardt said. "I'm certainly not feeling that way right now, and I'll be much more self-aware down the road trying to remember what this is and what position I'm in and not take it for granted. It's easy to do."
01-25-2017 05:20 PM
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