Earnhardt Jr. said lingering symptoms kept him from racing

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2016, file photo, Dale Earnhardt Jr looks from the garage before practice for at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Earnhardt Jr. will miss the rest of the NASCAR season as he continues to recover from a concussion. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. listens to a question during his news conference before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Darlington Raceway, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to Sprint Cup success after a concussion in 2012. He's betting he'll do it once more in 2017 and beyond.

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 Michigan in June.

Earnhardt, who'll turn 42 next month, has heard people say he should walk away as his recovery continued.

"I have the passion and desire to drive," Earnhardt said. "My heart is there to continue and if my doctor says I can continue, that's an easier decision for me to make."

Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Concussion Program, also treated Earnhardt four years ago.

"Seeing his response to treatments has been very positive. So I am positive that we are going to get Dale back to being a race car driver," Collins said. "I'm very excited about that prospect."

So are many in the Sprint Cup garage and the stands.

Earnhardt stopped by to see his team preparing the No. 88 Chevrolet as fans in the pit area snapped pictures and wished him well. For Earnhardt, such interactions fuel his recovery — one he expects to be complete in time for next February's Daytona 500.

"I haven't put a lot of thought into the future until I get well," Earnhardt said. "My heart wants me to continue and be working with the guys I got.

"I'm only 41," Earnhardt continued. "I've got some good years left. I think I'm as good as I've been inside the car. I feel like I'm still an asset to the team and to the company."

Earnhardt has not raced since Kentucky, missing the past five races. Jeff Gordon will drive for Earnhardt at the Southern 500 later Sunday.

Earnhardt acknowledged the difficulty seeing others in his seat or going to debriefing meetings at the race shop. "I feel like a distraction," he said.

His balance, vision and anxiety and mood have all improved since the diagnosis earlier this summer, both Earnhardt and Dr. Collins said.

Earnhardt has attended sponsor functions and performed routine activities of daily life without too many bobbles, although he did say that he feels best when seated on the couch and can see a dropoff when he leaves to drive to the store or walk around a race track.

"It gives me the confidence this is going in the right direction," he said.

Earnhardt's confidence also comes from the treatment after a crash at a test session in Kansas four years ago left him concussed. He missed two races, but won later that season in Michigan. Since his previous concussion, Earnhardt has won eight of his 28 career Sprint Cup races in seasons he's called "some of the very best of my career."

Earnhardt reached NASCAR's championship Chase all four seasons and Dr. Collins has told him similar success is possible going forward. "I believe it," Earnhardt said.

Car owner Rick Hendrick said the sponsors have unanimously backed Earnhardt's cautious, get entirely well approach without squawking. "We're excited about the progress. We're excited about him getting back in the car," Hendrick said. "I can see how taking the pressure off the team, the pressure off him, the pressure off the sponsors and let's just have a plan."

Earnhardt said part of the plan is once he's cleared to drive race cars, he'll get to a race track and test his skills. He's spoken with NASCAR, who gave their backing to an individual test to reacquaint himself with racing.

Earnhardt remains confident that he's got great years ahead.

"Rick likes to say we've got unfinished business and I certainly feel the same way," Earnhardt said. "We've got races to win."

Must Read

Pipeline operator Enbridge to buy Spectra Energy...

Sep 6, 2016

Canada's Enbridge is buying Houston-based Spectra Energy for about $28 billion, creating North...

Andrus powers Rangers to 10-7 win at slumping...

Sep 7, 2016

Texas' Elvis Andrus had a homer and three doubles to lead the Rangers to a 10-7 win at slumping...

Manny Pacquiao puts retirement on hold, takes on...

Sep 9, 2016

Manny Pacquiao is determined to fight on, even without Floyd Mayweather across the ring or HBO in...

NCAA turns up pressure on North Carolina over...

Sep 13, 2016

The NCAA's decision to pull seven championships out of North Carolina could dramatically ratchet up...

Pagenaud wins pole as he closes in on IndyCar...

Sep 18, 2016

Simon Pagenaud to start from the pole in the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where the...

People also read these

Mickelson on a mission to win a tournament or...

Sep 2, 2016

Phil Mickelson rarely feels this much urgency when the majors are over

IndyCar returns to The Glen; speeds rise on new...

Sep 2, 2016

IndyCar racing returned to Watkins Glen International on Friday after a six-year hiatus, and New...

Day withdraws from BMW Championship with back pain

Sep 11, 2016

Jason Day withdrew from the BMW Championship after eight holes on Sunday with back pain, making him...

Veteran US diplomat John Buzbee dies at 50

Sep 15, 2016

John Buzbee, a veteran U.S. Foreign Service officer who served across the Middle East, died Thursday

Pagenaud wins pole as he closes in on IndyCar...

Sep 18, 2016

Simon Pagenaud to start from the pole in the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where the...

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH

About Us

In The Headline sought to bring professionalism back into journalism, bringing you only the most exclusive and the most impactive news from all over the globe.

Contact us: sales@intheheadline.com