Talladega II: Earnhardt Jr medical update interview

HOW ARE YOU FEELING? "I feel pretty good. I'm feeling a lot better every day. We had a little bit of a concussion and I was unconscious for a little bit, but I it wasn't anything as bad as California (previous concussion 4/02 at California ...

HOW ARE YOU FEELING? "I feel pretty good. I'm feeling a lot better every day. We had a little bit of a concussion and I was unconscious for a little bit, but I it wasn't anything as bad as California (previous concussion 4/02 at California Speedway). I had a gauge to go off of for exactly how bad my concussion was, unfortunately, being in that accident. The biggest problem was just the (right) foot. The foot is getting better. They said it probably wasn't going to get better for a long time but it has. We've done everything we could this week just to get the swelling to go down and get it to where I could walk on it at least a little bit. It's just getting a lot better every day."

WHEN DID YOU START TO FEEL LIKE YOU HAD GOTTEN PAST THE INITIAL CONCUSSION AND THAT YOU WERE GETTING BACK TO YOURSELF? "It was about 24 hours. It's hard to explain what it feels like. It just takes a little time to get over it, I guess. It's no fun.

"I blacked out in the car (at Dover last weekend) because my foot hurt so bad mainly. Because after I hit the wall I was still conscious. I put the net down and took my helmet off and then I realized how bad my foot was hurting. It was just night-night. It's so much pain you'd rather be unconscious. Your body just shuts off. I don't understand it, but it was weird."

DID YOU HAVE HEADACHES OR WERE YOU LISTLESS OR WHAT? "No, none of those. I was maybe just a little dizzy. That was it."

AND IN 24 HOURS THAT WAS DONE? "Yeah, it was. I've probably had six or seven circumstances in my career where I've hit the wall hard enough that it makes you dizzy. I had that one major concussion last year (California) and a bunch of minor concussions. The minor ones aren't that big of a deal. More than anything, you think about all week is that you're just fortunate it isn't worse. Concussions aren't anything to be fooling around with. So I feel fortunate and lucky that the impact wasn't harder and I didn't suffer a worse or real bad concussion. I feel lucky that I'm able to race this weekend and to get cleared by all the doctors. I've seen a lot of different doctors this week. I've been run through all kinds of machines and tests."

DO YOU HAVE SPECIAL PADDING ON YOUR FOOT? "Bill Elliott had a similar injury in The Winston and he had a carbon fiber piece. We learned of that technology and we're trying to see if we need to use that. I don't know if it's necessary, but I'm sure my doctors would rather have me do something or have something in there just in case. A bunch of tendons are torn in my foot. There aren't any breaks or anything. It needs to be immobile in order to heal. I really shouldn't even be walking on it that much. It just takes a long time to heal."

WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT NASCAR WOULD LET YOU RACE THIS WEEKEND? "No, I knew I was all right to go this weekend. I wasn't in a big hurry. I wanted to make sure everything was cool with my foot. It hurt so bad I thought for sure something was broken in it. We kept getting x-rays and MRI's on it and finally found what most of the problem was (tendons) and it's something you can't really do much about. There is an option to get some surgery done to it, but that's only if it doesn't heal and if I put too much weight on it and walk around on it a lot and mess it up."

ARE THERE OTHER TRACKS WHERE YOU COULDN'T RACE THIS WEEKEND BECAUSE OF YOUR FOOT - LIKE SAY, MARTINSVILLE? "No, I'm good to go - sharp as a tack."

WITH FOUR WINS AT TALLADEGA, ARE YOU AFRAID YOUR STREAK WILL COME TO AN END? "No, I feel real confident coming in that we can get five in a row. Winning four in a row was the hardest because we were trying to break the record. But the five in a row doesn't bother me as bad. I'm feeling real confident. I didn't think we'd win three in a row or four in a row. Five in a row would be great, but it'll be a long time before somebody wins four in a row. So I feel pretty good about my record and I don't feel a lot of pressure to keep adding to it."

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE OUT OF THE RESTRICTOR PLATE AND SPOILER RULE CHANGES FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I don't know. I haven't heard a lot about the tire testing they've done and the testing they did with Michael Waltrip and this package. I think the cars might be a little more aero-tight with the bigger blade on them. But, it shouldn't be a big issue here. It would be a pretty big issue at Daytona, but they might not even have the same package there."

NOW THAT YOU'RE BEING INDUCTED, ARE YOU PLANNING TO GO TO THE TALLADEGA WALK OF FAME? "I'm planning on going. That was a pretty big honor. I was real proud that they were going to do that for me. I'll take the opportunity to get over there. I'm pretty excited about it."

HAVE YOU SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH DEI YET? "No, we're still working on it. We're real, real close. It's all but done."

HAVE YOU BEEN UNDER THE RADAR LATELY? "Yeah, I'm just trying to concentrate on the end of the year. This is the toughest part of the season. I just want to really concentrate on what I'm doing at the race track. Sometimes I just feel like there's a little too much Dale Jr. out there in the press. I don't want to oversell the story too much. I used to get real excited when I'd see myself in the paper. But over the last few years, I've just read the same story over and over."

DID IT BOTHER YOU TO DROP FROM 2ND TO 4TH IN THE POINTS? "I didn't even really thing about that. The crash was a disappointment. It was kind of a letdown for the team. We made a real poor decision there to put on two tires. We learned a lot. Matt (Kenseth) has such a big lead. We'd all but done everything we could to win the championship this year. We were pretty much trying to fight for second (place). We still are. We're still going to concentrate on trying to do the best we can. It's already time to start preparing for next year. It's time to start preparing the team for next year and start trying to build on how we can be better. That off-season takes so much out of a team. We don't want to build up too much rust over the off-season. It's time to start concentrating on that now."

DID NASCAR GIVE YOU ANY INDICATION ON HOW HARD THE IMPACT WAS IN THE DOVER CRASH? "No. I've heard hearsay. But they've said that Kyle Petty's (crash) at Bristol was the hardest they've recorded with that black box. They said it was more than that. But the wreck didn't look like it. It didn't feel like it was a hard it. But when my foot slammed into that brake pedal, I'd never felt pain like that in my life. It was awful."

CAN YOU FORGET THE PAIN WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING? "Yeah, that's easy. You're concentrating so hard on driving you can drive with that type of injury with no problem at all. It was hard not to be able to walk for a couple of days. That was the worst part. Those crutches aren't any fun either. I'm not walking with them. I think it's more painful to walk with the crutches than it is to walk on the foot. I just sat around and iced it 24 hours a day. The swelling went down and that's when I could start putting pressure on it. I got to where I could hobble over to the shop little bit. Now I can walk pretty good. I think it's kind of a non-issue. Hopefully I don't do anything stupid and take off running across the garage or something like that."

ON NOT RACING BACK TO THE CAUTION - WILL THAT BE A LITTLE BIT MORE CONFUSING AT TALLADEGA? "I don't like it (new rule) much either. I just think it takes a lot of fun out of it for me. That's like getting rid of the extra point kick in football. You should just go ahead and make the touchdown worth seven points. What's the point in kicking for an extra point?

"NASCAR is trying to do the best job they can. I'm not saying that their decision was stupid or their actions were ridiculous or that it doesn't make any sense or that it wasn't warranted. I race cars for fun. And it just got a lot less fun."

ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS, DO YOU THINK MORE DRIVERS ARE CONTENT TO FOLLOW AND NOT CHALLENGE YOU? "Yeah, I felt like that at Daytona in the 500 and the 400 too. In the 400, I couldn't get any help. It was in everybody's best interest to keep me out of the front or out of the lead draft. Over the last two years, I've gotten a lot less likely to help people and a lot less likely to work with people because I feel like my car can go to the front and I want to go to the front. So I'm making passes any time I can. I haven't made a lot of friends out there over the past couple of years. There are one or two that I can count on and work with, but I don't think they know exactly how much help I'm going to give them. I don't think they know how much they can depend on me. So that digs a hole a little bit when it comes to needing some help and needing some friends. But it seems like in the end when we need it we've always got it. But all the way up until the very end, it seems like there's somebody different behind the car every lap."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty