Dale Earnhardt is officially sitting out the rest of the 2016 NASCAR season to heal from a concussion which has put him on the sidelines since early July.
Hendrick Motorsports released a statement today saying Earnhardt Jr. would be missing the rest of the season as he is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion doctors believe the racer sustained in Michigan in June.
Despite not showing symptoms immediately, the driver says symptoms began to appear weeks later which caused him to seek help from doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports concussion program.
“I wish I could return to the No. 88 team this season,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a team statement. “To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, but I know this is the right thing for my long-term health and career. I’m 100 percent focused on my recovery, and I will continue to follow everything the doctors tell me. They’re seeing good progress in my test results, and I’m feeling that progress physically. I plan to be healthy and ready to compete at Daytona in February. I’m working toward that.
“The support from both inside and outside the race team has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so encouraging and positive, from my teammates and sponsors to my family, friends and fans. It’s motivating and humbling at the same time.”
In total, Earnhardt will be missing 18 of the 36 scheduled races in this season due to his concussion. He continued to compete in three races following his injury due to the delayed symptoms, which could have potentially exacerbated the damage from the initial concussion.
While Earnhardt Jr. seems intent on continuing his racing career after healing, some have suggested the driver may retire once his contract with Hendrick Motorsports is up following the 2017 season. He has had several notable concussions and the prolonged recovery likely has the NASCAR hero considering his health and the risk of another serious brain injury.