Junior’s Concussions May Help Out Others

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 6 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says concussion research fund will impact lives.
(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s experience with concussions in the waning years of his career has led Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Children’s Charities to create a concussion research fund in his name, it was announced Friday.

A $100,000 gift, the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund at Carolinas Healthcare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital will underwrite ImPACT baseline concussion testing for more than 10,000 student athletes at 62 middle schools, high schools and athletic associations across eight counties as well as Johnson C. Smith University and Gardner-Webb University.

The program will include cutting-edge “blink reflexometry” research, which uses a person’s blinking reflexes to diagnose concussions. The gift also will support local concussion seminars for parents, students, coaches and pediatricians.

“This is a great gift that will impact a lot of lives in this area and make a difference,” Earnhardt said during preparations for Sunday’s Bank of America 500. “It will have such a long lasting impact. This is something that is very close to my heart. I hope to be able to continue to help others going forward. This is a great way to do that.”

After Earnhardt announced the 2017 season would be his final one as a full-time competitor, the third-generation driver said his appreciation tour was about the fans and helping others. Speedway Motorsports Inc. president and CEO Marcus Smith noted Earnhardt challenged track promoters to do something that would “have a lasting impact.”

When Earnhardt was questioned about his request to the series track promoters, he explained that he didn’t need “any silly stuff and goofy gifts that I’m going to take home and store in a warehouse and never see.”

“Knowing my own experiences with working in our Foundation and seeing what the sport has done over the years, I thought it was a great opportunity to make an impact in each community,” Earnhardt said. “It feels so good to see others get help and be helped. I want everybody to be happy. That’s always been my thing. Hopefully, this season makes a lot of people happy.”

When Earnhardt was asked about the plans for the uniforms and helmets he has worn this year, the 42-year-old competitor admitted he has only one helmet.

“I’ve only used one helmet each year for a long time,” Earnhardt said. “The Stilo’s (brand of helmet) I’ve got are $3,000 to $5,000 apiece and I ain’t buying them. So I just wear the same one all year.

“I know Tony (Stewart) was really smart wearing a different one each week. I probably should have done something like that.”

Earnhardt said he received three uniforms at the beginning of the year and another three in mid-season.  

“They take those and chop them up and put them in trading cards and stuff like that,” Earnhardt said. “We get one or two and (Rick) Hendrick gets one or two; we split them. I like to keep one of those. Usually, I give the uniforms away to drivers for their charity events. We’ve got all of it cataloged away. So there is just not a lot of that stuff floating around.

“I wear the same pair of gloves for half the season and the same pair of shoes until they just bust in to. But once you get them comfortable it is hard to put on new ones.”

Earnhardt said he does have a special paint scheme for the season finale at Homestead and he would have a different helmet for that event.

“If the car makes it through the race, I’m going to take the car and Rick can have the helmet,” Earnhardt said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 6 2017
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