Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday that he’s continuing his rehab work and still does not know when he will be able to race again.
“I think my doctors have a good understanding of my history and what I’ve been through. … Our intentions are to get cleared and get back to racing and we’re just taking it one evaluation at a time,” said Earnhardt. “It’s frustrating to have to do it that way, but that’s the process.”
Earnhardt spoke with reporters at Watkins Glen International at noon on Friday, his first public appearance since being sidelined last month with concussion-like symptoms.
Our intentions are to get cleared and get back to racing. …
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It’s great to be back and see everybody,” said Earnhardt. “Super nervous coming back, but just hadn’t been to the track and I missed my team and my teammates. … figured maybe coming to the track wasn’t a bad idea.”
In recent days, Earnhardt has taken to Twitter and his own Dale Jr. Download podcast to provide updates on his recovery.
Earnhardt’s symptoms have included gaze stability — the inability to keep looking at a distant object while moving his head — balance and nausea.
Friday at Watkins Glen, Earnhardt reiterated that he’s taking his recovery one day at a time.
“We hope and expect when we go back for the next evaluation, we’ll be symptom-free,” Earnhardt said. “And can start to see a timeline develop. Until then, we’re just taking it one evaluation at a time. And those are typically two to three weeks.”
Earnhardt added, “I just want to get better. … Nothing else really is a priority, except for getting the symptoms to clear up and get back to feeling like yourself. That’s all that I’m thinking about.”
As far as returning to racing, Earnhardt was emphatic that he will race again.
“They tell me that without question we’re going to be back to normal,” Earnhardt said of his medical team. “I just have to do what they tell me. … I’ll work every day and listen to my doctors and hopefully continue to see progress.”
This is not Earnhardt’s first encounter with concussions. He suffered a pair of them in 2012, which forced him to miss two races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that season.
The latest concussion, which Earnhardt believes occurred at Michigan International Speedway in June, has brought four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon out of retirement less than a year after hanging up his helmet.
Alex Bowman substituted for Earnhardt at New Hampshire on July 17th, while Gordon filled in during the following races at Indianapolis and Pocono. Gordon is in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet again this weekend at Watkins Glen and will pilot it two weeks from now at Bristol. Next weekend is the final off-week of the season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In 18 starts this year, Earnhardt has four runner-up finishes, five top fives and six top 10s.
For his career, the third-generation NASCAR star has 26 victories, 148 top fives and 252 top 10s. Earnhardt’s top points finish came in 2003, when he drove for his late father’s Dale Earnhardt Inc. team. Earnhardt Jr. finished third in points in 2003 and won a career-high six races the following season.
Earnhardt has two Daytona 500 victories to his credit and was voted as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for a 13th consecutive time in 2015.