clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to miss New Hampshire NASCAR race due to concussion-like symptoms

New, comment

Earnhardt’s return is not known. Alex Bowman to drive Earnhardt’s No. 88 car in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will sit out Sunday's NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway due to "concussion-like symptoms," Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday.

Earnhardt, who missed two Sprint Cup races with a concussion in 2012, said in a statement he recently began to feel out of sorts following the July 2 race at Daytona International Speedway and consulted a doctor after last Saturday night's race at Kentucky Speedway. He had been involved in wrecks twice within a three-race span, a hard crash June 12 at Michigan International Speedway and a less severe incident at Daytona.

Hendrick named Alex Bowman, who drives part-time for Earnhardt's Xfinity Series team, to fill in for Earnhardt at New Hampshire. There is no timetable for when Earnhardt, 41, will return to competition.

"I wasn't feeling great the week going into Kentucky and thought it was possibly severe allergies," Earnhardt said. "I saw a family doctor and was given medication for allergies and a sinus infection. When that didn't help, I decided to dig a little deeper. Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out.

"I'm disappointed about missing New Hampshire this weekend. I'm looking forward to treatment with the goal of getting back in the race car when the doctors say I'm ready."

Earnhardt, winless on the season, is ranked 13th in the standings 32 points ahead of the current cutoff to earn a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth. To qualify for the playoffs, Earnhardt will first need NASCAR to grant him a medical exemption excusing him from missing any races, then either finish high enough in points to claim a Chase wild card spot or win a regular season race -- of which just eight remain, including New Hampshire.

"I'm proud of Dale for standing up," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "The No. 1 priority is his health, so we're going to give him all the time he needs. We completely support the decision by the doctors and will be ready to go win races when he's 100 percent. In the meantime, we have full confidence in [crew chief] Greg Ives and the team, and we know they'll do a great job."

Earnhardt is quite knowledgeable about head injuries. He suffered a concussion in May 2002 that he did not disclose until four months later for fear of missing any races.

Ten years later, he suffered a pair of concussions within a six-week span. The first occurred in a crash during a test at Kansas Speedway, and he did not seek further medical consultation after being initially checked out and cleared at the track.

The second concussion happened when Earnhardt was involved in a multi-car accident during a Chase race at Talladega Superspeedway. Not feeling well a few days later, Earnhardt visited a Charlotte, N.C., area doctor who diagnosed the brain injury. He missed two races recuperating.

In March, Earnhardt pledged to donate his brain for concussion research at the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which is partnered with Boston University's Brain Bank. Earnhardt said at the time of his announcement that he hoped to visit the campus and meet with doctors in conjunction with traveling to New Hampshire for the track's annual July Sprint Cup Series race located roughly 77 miles from Boston University.

"I'm really excited or passionate I guess a little bit to know more about it and understand the whole process," Earnhardt said of donating his brain for research. "I certainly want to know everything you can do. That is a very serious and personal decision. It would be interesting to go up there and see the bank and understand more."