Jeff Gordon will once again fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at this weekends NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. Jr. opened up on his weekly podcast giving an interesting and scary look into his symptoms. On Tuesday Jr. underwent evaluations at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Unfortunately he was not cleared for racing and based when you hear him speak about his condition, it doesn’t look like he will be returning anytime soon.
“The balance is up and down. Being able to fix on an object at a great distance and stay there with head movement. That’s the problem; when I move my head I lose the object that I’m trying to target. That’s hand-in-hand with the balance. It’s been only three weeks since I first got checked out and that’s a short time in the grand scheme of things. But I’m very impatient and I want change now and I want improvement now. I’m constantly texting my doctor asking what I can do to get better tomorrow and he’s like, ‘you’ve got to realize this might be a process and you have to keep doing your exercises.'”
“You open your eyes and you go to the bathroom and you know nothing is better, nothing is worse, but nothing is better so you kind of get frustrated on those days. So I reach out (to my doctor) and say, ‘Hey tell me you can fix this. I need to hear that again.'”
These are scary symptoms to us normal folk, let alone someone who makes a living driving a 900 horsepower monster as fast as possible. Were not talking about a leg or an arm where you can play through the pain, this is the brain. Just look at all the former NFL players who are suffering through CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy). The brain is something you just don’t mess with. So for now Earnhardt waits. The frustrating wait that is completely out of his control.
“I want people to know why I can’t drive. You feel pretty helpless, especially on Friday and Saturday and Sunday when the guys are working and the car’s on the track. It’s not a good feeling, it’s not fun.”
So for now Jeff Gordon will fill in for Jr. for at least the next 2 races. Jr. will be reevaluated after that and he will go from there. Personally I think he should call it on the 2016 season. The risks are too great. Jr. knows better than most just what can go wrong on the race track. Furthermore, from a competitive stand point each race he misses it becomes less and less likely he will make the chase. So there is no reason to rush back. No reason to put himself at risk. He just needs to bag the 2016 season and come back ready to go and more importantly healthy in 2017.