Sometimes it takes something serious to put everything into perspective for you, and for Dale Earnhardt Jr. a few concussions was enough for him to leave the racing world and think about his health.
His first concussion happened in 2012 when a 23-car crash took place at Talladega Superspeedway on the final lap of the race. The injury sidelined Earnhardt Jr. for the next two races. Then in 2016 he missed the second half of the racing season after being diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms.
While Earnhardt continued to race for one final year in 2017, the concussions were taking a toll on him and led to his retirement.
âIf I had not been injured Iâd be racing today, thereâs no doubt about it,â Earnhardt Jr. told FanSidedâs Mark Carman. âThe injuries changed my perspective, priorities and values 180 degrees. When I was hurt, I was so scared I was going to be stuck with those symptoms with the rest of my life and that made me want to get as far away from racing as possible. I had so many other things I wanted to do and I didnât want to be broken or compromised to experience these things for the rest of my life.â
Although Earnhardt Jr. says his racing career wouldnât have ended when it did, his decision to retire wasnât a particularly difficult one to make. In fact, he thinks his retirement was harder for his family and fans to deal with than him.
âI was ready to be done and to get off that ride,â Earnhardt Jr. said. âThere had been a lot of ups and downs and the ups are really great, but the downs are really really low. To finally get off that train Iâve been on for a long time, I was ready.â
Earnhardt Jr. hasnât completely stepped away from the racing world. Instead of spending race days behind the wheel, now heâs up in the broadcast booth calling all the action as it unfolds. While he misses being down on the track, the excitement that he still has for the sport exudes when he commentates a race, and this Sunday when he attends his first Indianapolis 500 race, heâll be driving the pace car.
A wave of emotions will run through him as he leads the pack of racers on the track at what is considered âThe Greatest Spectacle in Racing,â and while it doesnât bring about the same emotions as competing for a first place finish, Earnhardt will be able to scratch that itch in August when he races in theÂ NASCAR XFinity Series Sports Clips Haricuts VFW 200 at Darlington.
âI love being able to anticipate this one race all year long and being able to look forward to it but once itâs over Iâm reminded why I love it, but Iâm also reminded why I donât do it anymore,â Earnhardt said.