Dale Earnhardt, Jr. returns to what the 38-year-old driver classifies as “narmal” this weekend at Martinsville–sitting behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt sat out two weeks following a concussion that he suffered in a last-lap crash at Talladega, during which Earnhardt says he learned much about both himself and about head injuries in general.
“You just have got to be patient and let thing happen. I’ve learned a ton, just about what I’ve went through. Feel like I’m a lot smarter. A lot more prepared, and understand the situation a lot better now than I did beforehand. So, that’s really good. It’s been a good experience. It’s something I’d rather not have went through; I learned a lot from it. It’s been good for me. I’m just excited to be back to work. Get back in the car, and get back to normal. Get back to the life that I’m used to,” Earnhardt said at Martinsville Friday.
Earnhardt said that although he suffered two concussions, one at Kansas and one in the Talladega incident, the two were not similar and affected different areas of his brain, with the second one being more emotional. “I’m trying not to get long winded, but the two concussions were completely different as far as where my brain was injured. As far as I can understand what the doctors have told me. The first one at Kansas was your typical concussion where the frontal lobe and the headaches and the fogginess that you typically feel. The one that I had at Talladega was a vestibular is what they call it. It’s more in the back or the base of the brain where the brain and your spine sort of connect. It sort of mixed up a lot of anxiety and emotional stuff so they symptoms were more like anxiety driven. If I would get into sort of a busy situation I would just get a lot of anxiety. I was already that way anyways I’ve never really been much on being around crowds and a lot of people. So the two concussions were completely different. I was dealing with different symptoms,”Earnhardt explained.
But Earnhardt says he’s feeling 100% this weekend, and that he was honest with his doctors during the clearance process. “I’ve been pretty honest, and so far they’ve been real pleased with what they’ve seen, and feel like I can get back in the car. That is what I want to do. I felt like I could have raced in Kansas for sure, and probably ran at Charlotte with no problem. I feel foolish…you know…I feel kind of foolish sitting at home feeling okay, and not being in the car. It feels really un-natural. I feel good, and the doctors say it’s okay, I want to be in the car.”
Earnhardt was second in the single practice session on Friday and will go out 44th in qualifying.