INDIANAPOLIS – Last weekend was a shocker to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. not in his No. 88 Chevrolet at New Hampshire. The news of him missing the race due to “concussion-like symptoms” took us all by storm. But, I’m honestly not shocked to see him miss another week with today’s announcement. With what he was saying in last week’s statement, to what he said in his radio show earlier this week, I think it was pretty clear that this wasn’t going to be a one or two race setback. In fact, it seemed longer.
Well, I’m not surprised to see him now only sit out this weekend’s Brickyard 400, but next weeks race at Pocono as well. With all this being said, I think the focus needs to now be on his health and not looking at his Chase chances.
Honestly, at this point now, it’s probably best Earnhardt sit out until he’s absolutely 100-percent healthy.
There’s no need to rush back. He doesn’t have to prove some herculean effort by rushing back in his Hendrick Motorsports ride and race again. What he needs to do is take care of himself.
These injuries are scary. They can make people question their ability and if they can even come back to the highest level again. Well, Earnhardt is an Earnhardt, he’s a fighter. He’s not going to let this get to him and hamper his abilities at competing at NASCAR’s highest level in the future.
But, in order to do that, he needs to take his time. That means don’t focus on coming back and trying to make the Chase. Don’t focus on coming back and winning right away. Focus on your health, not your race car or your race team.
That’s hard to do for a driver. That’s all he’s ever known and all he ever thinks about. That’s how he’s wired.
But, I can assure you, the No. 88 Chevy is Earnhardt’s ride and his ride only. No one is going to come in and take that away from him no matter what they do in that car.
Heck, whether its Jeff Gordon, Alex Bowman or whoever else replaces him if needed beyond Pocono, they could win every single race, and that ride still be Earnhardt’s when he’s ready to return.
The truth of the matter is, Earnhardt is already displaying herculean abilities to have the strength to get out of the car when something didn’t feel right. I commend him for that.
So, if there’s any thoughts of Earnhardt making this year’s Chase, forget about it. After missing the next two races, he’s going to be on the outside looking in as far as wildcards go.
He would need to win to get in, and that’s something his team hasn’t had the ability of doing so far this year. What makes you think it would happen after he comes back?
It’s not just Earnhardt’s team it’s the entire Hendrick organization as well as Chevy as a whole struggling.
So, Earnhardt now just needs to take his time and not rush back. At this point, he can miss the rest of the year if needed as the season is a wash now. His health is more important than any championship trophy.
Get your health right and come back in 2017 and battle for the Cup.