NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. is bowing out of a major upcoming race this weekend due to a possible concussion.
Earnhardt’s team Hendrick Motorsports released a statement today saying the racer was not cleared by doctors for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series Event this weekend in New Hampshire due to “concussion-like symptoms.”
“I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky [Speedway] and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt said in the statement. “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.”
NASCAR isn’t typically the first sport you think of when you consider sports with high risk for concussions, but the harsh bumps and collisions can quickly cause a brain injury that may not be noticeable immediately.
Earnhardt is more familiar with that possibility than most drivers. He has experienced four documented concussions in the past and has pledged to donate his brain for brain injury research when he dies.
In 2012, the racer experienced two concussions within six weeks leading to questions of when he would return.
It is considered rare for NASCAR racers to be put on the sideline for concussions. Earnhardt’s decision could encourage other drivers to take brain injuries seriously and be more willing to report symptoms.
“I’m proud of Dale for standing up,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in a statement. “The number-one 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 Greg (Ives) and the team, and we know they’ll do a great job.”