Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he's not ready to quit racing

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Say this about Dale Earnhardt Jr., he follows doctor's orders.

After missing three straight Sprint Cup races because of lingering effects of a concussion, NASCAR's most popular driver did something Friday that's part of his therapy. He made his first public appearance to speak about his recovery.

"My doctor wants to put me in situations that drive the symptoms," Earnhardt said at Watkins Glen International ahead of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. "My doctor calls that exposure, and this is probably the worst situation as far as making my systems go haywire. That's what he wants. That's just part of the process.

"Our intentions are to get cleared and get back to racing. I'm not ready to quit. … We're just taking it one evaluation at a time."

Doctors told Earnhardt his latest injury occurred June 12 in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He was clipped in the rear by Chris Buescher's No. 34 while racing three wide with AJ Allmendinger and hit the wall at an angle that softened the impact.

Earnhardt drove in three more races before his symptoms became too severe.

"The doctors feel they can make my brain stronger to be able to cope with these common events," he said. "The event that I had at Michigan I shouldn't have had a concussion from. I should be able to get through events like that without having any issues."

Earnhardt has been keeping fans updated on his condition via weekly podcasts.

"The one thing that I worry most about is … people making assumptions of where I'm at, what I'm doing, and what I'm up to. I don't want people making assumptions," he said. "To give me peace of mind and to bring down any type of stress and anxiety through the process is to open up and be honest about what's going on and how we're doing."

Earnhardt won't drive Sunday and also will miss the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol on Aug. 20. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, who came out of retirement to fill in for Earnhardt the past two races, will remain behind the wheel in the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

There remains no timetable for Earnhardt's return.

Earnhardt's latest evaluation was Monday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. He said afterward that he continues to experience issues with balance and an ability to focus on an object while he moves his head.

Xfinity: Joey Logano won his second straight the pole, for the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International in New York. Logano turned a track-record fast lap of 124.552 mph to edge Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski.

The pole for Logano, the race's defending champion, was the 31st of his career in the series, breaking a tie with Mark Martin for second all time. It's also the fifth straight pole for Penske at Watkins Glen and marks the second straight year the teammates will start on the front row.

Paul Menard will start third, followed by Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch as Sprint Cup regulars dominated on the newly paved track.

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