Earnhardt wants to concentrate on getting well

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s mission for the rest of the season is clear. To concentrate on healing his burn injuries and work on getting his race team back into championship form. "I wish I could have took some pictures and handed them out," ...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s mission for the rest of the season is clear. To concentrate on healing his burn injuries and work on getting his race team back into championship form.

"I wish I could have took some pictures and handed them out," said Earnhardt of his burns. "There's one on my upper left thigh that is about 4x2 inches, one above the back of my knee, that's about 5x5 inches, and one below my knee that is about the size of a silver dollar.

"Those are the only ones that are giving me problems. The ones on my left leg still haven't scabbed. We have been trying new dressings to help facilitate healing. It still hurts, when you have an open wound and you stand up all the blood rushes, so it just hurts real bad."

Earnhardt suffered second degree burns during a practice crash at an American Le Mans race in Sonoma several weeks ago, and has been playing on one-lap down ever since. At New Hampshire and Pocono, Earnhardt ran only a handful of laps, before having relief drivers take over the No. 8 Chevy and finish the race for him.

Although Earnhardt admits, that exiting the seat at Pocono had more to do with a bad race car, than pain being suffered by the 29-year-old North Carolina native.

"I got out because I could," commented Earnhardt. "That wasn't right. Whether that was a wake-up call that we need to get better, I don't know. It's bad enough to be injured, but to be injured and have them send me off in that car, it was terrible."

Earnhardt started off the season with a bang, winning the Busch series and Cup series events at Daytona. Two more wins followed quickly at Atlanta and Richmond, but a mid-season slide seemed to bite Team 8 far before he sustained his injuries.

"I don't think our slump started two weeks ago," Earnhardt stated. "It's been longer than that. It's been eight or ten weeks ago for us. I can't pinpoint it. That's the frustration. You can't say all right, we're setting the cars up differently."

One thing is for certain, as much as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would like to earn his first championship this year, it is not so important that he would risk his health. Right now, Earnhardt wants to concentrate on finishing races, working on his car, and mending his leg.

"My priorities have never changed," said Earnhardt. "I would never put personal goals above my friendships, relationships or my personal health.

"I don't feel like I am 100 percent focused. I can get in the car and I can drive it just as fast every lap as I did six months ago, but focus is important. The level I need to be focusing is not quite there yet. I'm sitting out there before qualifying trying to get off my leg and sit down somewhere and keep comfortable instead of thinking about where I'm at in the car and the changes we made. I'm trying to do all those things and worry about it at the same time is kind of difficult."

After three disastrous weekends, where Team 8 has finished 22nd or worse and slid to third in points, Earnhardt wants to regain some of the magic the No. 8 team had at season start.

"We are not a championship quality team right now," Earnhardt lamented. "I think everybody knows that. All we can do is work, bust our ass and try hard to get it right."

The No. 8 Chevy qualified 5th for the Brickyard 400, and has no intent on letting another driver take over the wheel on Sunday.

"Our plan is to stay in the car," said Earnhardt. "In an emergency situation, I am sure we can find somebody."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt