Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he can’t wait to return to racing and his team but cautioned Monday “that this process is going to take a little bit longer.’’
Earnhardt spoke for about nine minutes on the Dale Jr. Download podcast.
Earnhardt has missed the last two Sprint Cup races because of concussion-like symptoms and will not race this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Jeff Gordon, who finished 13th Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will again drive the No. 88 Chevrolet for Earnhardt this week. Hendrick Motorsports stated that a decision on who will drive the car at Watkins Glen is not expected to be made until next week.
Earnhardt said he will have another evaluation “soon” to see “what kind of gains we’ve made and get in front of my doctors … and let them tell me where they think I’m at and that will help us make the decision on what we’re going to do for Watkins Glen.’’
He also said that he’s been doing daily exercises that doctors gave him to help him with his balance. He said on last week’s podcast that he was having balance and nausea issues.
“I’ve been working on the exercises, physical and mental exercises that they gave me,’’ Earnhardt said. “That stuff takes about two hours, two and a half hours. I’ve got to do it every day. There’s worse things to have to do. Some of it is tedious. Some of it is pretty tough. Some of the visual stuff is pretty tough.
“You can race with some ailments. You can race with a bad wrist; we’ve seen Denny (Hamlin) and guys race with bad knees. There’s been some guys that have done some pretty incredible things. I’ve raced with a broken shoulder blade. There’s certain things you can race through, but one of the things you cannot race through is concussion-like symptoms. The balance deal is a critical part of being able to drive a race car.’’
Earnhardt also had a message for fans.
“Make sure you send Jeff Gordon a special thanks,” Earnhardt said. “I’m not sure I would have made the decision he made to leave an awesome vacation with his family. Make sure you guys send special thanks to Jeff, my crew went through all that heat (at Indy) as well. Keep sending them good vibes. When we get back together, it’s going to be on.’’
Earnhardt said Gordon has made an impact already on the team and him.
“Jeff had a lot of great ideas and thoughts about the team,’’ Earnhardt said. “I think another week with those guys at Pocono will be interesting. I can’t wait to keep talking to him and debriefing with him throughout the week on what he thinks about the team, what he thinks I can do better and how the team can get better. It’s awesome having a guy with his experience step in.
“Getting a different driver in there that thinks differently, feels things differently is a great way to get new information. I was excited for (crew chief) Greg (Ives). I think this is really helping our team, as unfortunate as the situation is. We need to try to gain something out of it.
“I’m trying to stay plugged in and in communication as we go so that I’m up to speed and when I get back into the car it’s real seamless.’’
Earnhardt said he plans to have another update on his podcast next Monday.