CONCORD, N.C. -- With the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be returning to the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in 2017, the driver is able to look back on his experience in 2016 and take away a few lessons.
The concussion that sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 18 races in 2016 certainly gave the driver some time to think and reflect back on his career thus far.
Earnhardt said that he learned a lot about himself personally throughout his recovery, including realizing things that he might have been taking for granted.
"You learn to appreciate a lot of different parts and aspects of your life a lot more," the 42-year-old said.
He likened this process to the experience he had in 2012 while recovering from a similar concussion that sidelined him from four races.
"When you get something kind of taken away from you, you certainly realize what it is worth," Earnhardt said. "We gripe about our schedule and this and that and the other, but once you are not doing it and you are watching all your friends out there on the track and watching your crew work without you it really puts thing into perspective. It helps you kind of appreciate what you’ve got."
Following the test at Darlington, Earnhardt's doctors medically cleared him to return to NASCAR competition, with the 2017 Feb. 26 Daytona 500 set as Earnhardt's return debut.
The driver said last week's test was key to restoring his confidence behind the wheel.
Earnhardt will start the new year off with a test at Phoenix International Raceway at the end of January, giving the driver more on-track time before returning to competition.
"I'm ready to get more and more laps in the car so I feel real confident in myself," Earnhardt said. "Confidence is really critical for me to perform well. The more I can do to help build my confidence before we go to Daytona the better. I’m excited.”