Speaking to reporters at Charlotte Motor Speedway today, Earnhardt admitted racing in recent weeks, despite knowing he was “not quite right” after the Kansas crash.
“We blew a right-front tire going into Turn One,” recalled Earnhardt of the testing incident. “I remember everything about the crash, but I also knew I didn’t feel (right) afterward. I know my body and I knew something was just not quite right. I’ve had concussions before, so I knew what I was dealing with. I decided to just push through it.”
Earnhardt said he felt better in a few days, and was “80-90% within a couple of weeks. By the time we got to Talladega, I felt 100%.”
He said Sunday’s Talladega crash was not nearly as severe as the one five weeks earlier.
“I got hit in the left-rear quarter panel,” he recalled. “It was sort of an odd collision. The car spun around quick, and it disoriented me. I knew I had regressed and (suffered) a setback. I knew as soon as it happened that I had reinjured myself.
“It was not even half the impact I had at Kansas, but it was enough to cause me concern,” he said. “I spent a couple of days wondering how my body would react and process what had happened. By Wednesday, I was still having headaches, so I took it upon myself to contact my sister. We talked about how I was feeling, and decided to see a neurosurgeon. I met with Dr. (Jerry) Petty and ran through some tests. I was honest with him about how I felt (and what had happened at Kansas).
“After thinking about it overnight, he said he couldn’t clear me to race this weekend.” said Earnhardt. “I trust his opinion. He’s been a good friend of mine for many years now, and if he tells me I need to take a couple of weeks off, that’s what I need to do.”
|Earnhardt (green) crashed hard Sunday|
Earnhardt said he regrets not seeking medical attention following the Kansas crash, admitting he feared being forced to step out of the car.
“I was stubborn,” he said. “I’d had concussions before and thought I knew what I was dealing with. I thought I was capable of doing my job. If I volunteered myself to medical attention, I didn’t know if I would be able to get back in the car. That’s the reason why I waited until Wednesday (to seek attention).
Ultimately, however, “I knew having two concussions back-to-back was not a good thing,” Earnhardt said. “I knew I had to see someone, whether it meant getting out of the car or not. I feel perfectly fine, but I don’t want to keep getting hit in the head.”
Petty said Earnhardt’s neurological exam and MRI were “entirely normal,” and that he could return to competition with no permanent impairment in as little a 10-14 days. “I would like him to have 4-5 days with no headache, then exercise him to get his heart rate up and see if we can provoke a headache,” said Petty. “If not, we’ll clear him to race.”
With his 2012 championship hopes now gone, Earnhardt said he will proceed with caution and remain on the sidelines for as long as necessary.
“If you have more than one (concussion) in a small period of time, you have to take it seriously.”