WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Friday afternoon at Watkins Glen International, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped to the podium for the first time since it was announced last month that he would be sidelined due to concussion-like symptoms.
And he made it clear that there’s only one thing on his mind.
"I just want to get better,” he said. “Nothing else really is a priority except for just getting the symptoms to clear up and get back to feeling like yourself. That's all that I'm thinking about.”
When he’s given the go-ahead by his doctors, he can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS.
Right now, however, it’s all about patience.
“It’s a slower process, and I wish it wasn’t,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take. As impatient as I am, I worry about everyone else’s patience as well. But I’m not going to go in the car until the doctors clear me. The doctors won’t let me race – this is not my decision, but it’s the right decision and I trust what my doctors are telling me. When they say I’m good to go, I believe them. And if they say I’m healthy and I can race, I’m going to race.”
The driver said he speaks with his doctor every other day, and he continues to put in two-to-three hours of physical and mental therapy every day as he works to clear up the symptoms.
“I want to race. I miss the competition. I miss being here. I miss the people."Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As of late, he relayed, the goal has in fact been to bring on the symptoms and “push” his mind.
“They want to push the symptoms so my body sort of gets used to them and they become suppressed and then it’s no longer an issue,” he explained. “I’ll work every day and listen to my doctors and hopefully continue to see progress.”
In the meantime, Earnhardt said the support and encouragement he has received from fans, friends and family has made an immeasurable impact.
“It’s been awesome,” he smiled. “That’s helped me a lot and given me a lot of motivation to get back and get back in the car. Even hearing from not only the fans but other drivers, my peers, it’s such a positive motivation. So the more of that I see, the better.”
Earnhardt maintained that his intention when he first went to the doctors was to work hard to get back to racing as soon as possible. And while he acknowledged that the process has taken longer than he expected, his intentions have not changed.
He’s just taking it one evaluation at a time, staying positive and not considering the “what-ifs.”
“As soon as I can get healthy and get confident in how I feel and feel like that I can drive a car and be great driving it, then I want to drive,” he said. “I want to race. I miss the competition. I miss being here. I miss the people.
“As (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Rick (Hendrick) likes to say, ‘We’ve got unfinished business.’ I’m not ready to stop racing. I’m not ready to quit.”