CONCORD, N.C. – This week on his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. delivered a message on his continued recovery from a concussion.
“It’s getting better.”
And with that in mind, he’s prepared to head to Dover International Speedway this weekend to cheer on his teammates at the track.
“I’m going to go Saturday and Sunday,” Earnhardt said, noting that he will likely watch the race from atop the pit box. “It’s going to be kind of different – tough, maybe not a ton of fun. It’s a bit weird to be not in the car but at the track when you’re a driver. You don’t know what to do with yourself. But I’m going to try to support the guys and maybe learn a thing or two. I’m excited to see how Jeff (Gordon) does. He usually runs great at Dover. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be different, but we’ll see how it goes.”
In addition to showing support for Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt noted that the trip to the track will also serve as a bit of rehab.
As he has explained in the past, part of what his doctors have recommended is “exposure” to hectic situations in order to bring on his symptoms and in turn help allay them.
Attending two birthday parties recently – including one for a 1-year-old – fit that category, as will the upcoming venture to Dover.
“Those environments are good for me,” he said.
"It’s a bit weird to be not in the car but at the track when you’re a driver. You don’t know what to do with yourself."Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt explained that the exertion part of his recovery – exercising for one-to-two hours a day – has triggered fewer and fewer symptoms. He has gone through a cycle of getting new exercises, working until they don’t trigger symptoms, then getting a new set of exercises again.
While the hard work in the gym continues – including lots of basketball – the main trigger for his symptoms is the “exposure” he hopes to get this weekend.
That is also why he traveled to Milwaukee for a recent Lord Huron concert.
“The only thing that triggers the symptoms is going somewhere I’m unfamiliar with, going to somewhere I’ve never been where it’s busy,” he explained. “A lot of people talking, a lot of movement, a lot of visual stimulation – a busy place. If I can find a busy place, if I go with (fiancée) Amy (Reimann) to the grocery store or I go to a birthday party or something like that, that’s basically just rehab.”
“I’m going to go to the racetrack and I think get that same kind of exposure.”
"We’re almost back to being where I’m a normal, functioning person with no issues."Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As far as his specific symptoms, Earnhardt said the main one remaining is related to his balance.
“My eyes are really, really good,” he said. “I had some issues with them for a while that were pretty frustrating, and those have really gotten better. I don’t have any headaches – never really was dealing with headaches that much more than anything out of the ordinary.”
That has given him high hopes as his recovery continues to progress.
“My doctor talks about getting me back to being a normal person, and then there’s work to get me to where I can be a race car driver,” he explained. “We’re almost back to being where I’m a normal, functioning person with no issues, but to become that guy that I need to be inside the car, we’ve got to really train my senses to be, really, perfect. So I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff that’s really hard for anybody to do to try to continue to improve the balance and my response time and how quick I’m reacting to things and so forth.
“Still working on it, and I enjoy the work.”
Listen to the full "Dale Jr. Download" podcast here, and read more about how he has been impressed by fill-in driver Alex Bowman's performance and rapport with the No. 88 team.