from burns he sustained in a crash last month at Infinion
Raceway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. told the assembled media at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway he plans to go the full 400
miles in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
Earnhardt, Jr. was the first of fifty drivers to make a
qualifying attempt during Saturday’s session, breaking the
track qualifying record on his first and only lap with a
speed of 184.968 mph.
“Sitting in the car and driving the car is....even last week
I wasn't bothered by the heat. I don't normally even feel
the burns,” said Earnhardt, Jr., who will start fifth.
“Sitting in the seat is not a problem. I just told Tony Jr.
to put an extra large spring on the brake pedal so I
wouldn't be dragging the brake.”
Earnhardt was injured when he crashed his Corvette in
practice for an American Le Mans race on July 18. The force
of the impact damaged the fuel filler neck that attaches to
the gas tank, causing a fuel spill that ignited and engulfed
Earnhardt, wearing a full drivers suit and a closed-face
helmet, was surrounded by flames but managed to escape the
car on his own, suffering second-degree burns on his neck
Getting the burns to heal has been a painful process, but
Earnhardt credits his fast recovery to some new burn
treatments he’s been receiving.
“The doctors initially stated it would be a two-week
recovery,” said Earnhardt. “My neck is just about all healed
up. The right leg had two blisters on it that have scabbed
over that are 80 - 90 percent healed up. They don't bother
you anymore. But the ones on my left leg are still soft.
They haven't developed scabs. They haven't turned the corner
yet. I expected by this point that they would have.
“I had two nurses come from Raleigh this week (burn center
in Raleigh, NC) and we're trying some new dressings and
stuff like that to try and accelerate the healing. All that
has helped a lot. As you can see this week I'm able to put
my heel down and walk around half normal. But it still hurts
a little bit. When you stand up with an open wound on your
leg and you stand up you can feel the pressure when all the
blood rushes down there to it and you feel the pressure. So
it just hurts in those areas real bad. Walking around to and
from the car and the bus and the crew is the worst part.”
Earnhardt had tried to drive despite his injuries, but was
forced to turn over his #8 Budweiser Chevrolet to relief
drivers in the past two races, with disappointing.
Now Earnhardt admits it was a poor handling racecar, not his
injuries, that convinced him to give up the drivers seat
last week at Pocono.
“I really wasn't in a lot of pain. I really wasn't bothered
that bad by the injuries,” Earnhardt said. “The car was
terrible. I really seriously thought I could have run that
(entire) race. But I didn't have to. And we had John
(Andretti) sitting there. Personally, I wanted to see what
John thought about the racecar. I wasn't too happy about it.
We kind of mixed the drivers around there and had about the
Thanks in part to the new treatments he’s been undergoing,
Earnhardt says he will try to run the full distance on
Sunday. Plus, the team has brought a brand new chassis to
the track which Earnhardt feels needs his full attention.
“I want to stick it out this weekend,” Earnhardt said. “We
have a brand new car that I want to be in and I want to know
what's going on (with the car). So it's not that I'm
disappointed or expecting anything more, but to continue to
use relief drivers isn't a progression.
“I'm ready to get going. I'm ready to be driving the car all
the time. I want to get back on the path again.”
Getting back on the path will be much easier this season
thanks to the “Chase For The Championship”. Beginning with
the Sept. 19 race at New Hampshire Int’l Raceway, only the
drivers in the top ten in points will be eligible to race
for the championship.
Earnhardt, 353 points ahead of current 10-place driver Kevin
Harvick, is safely in the chase for now, but getting healthy
and focusing his full attention on the championship chase is
his number one priority.
“I want to get aggressive. But it's really hard for me to
get aggressive now being a one-legged man in an ass-kicking
contest,” laughs Earnhardt. “It's kind of tough to win those
fights. I want to be able to get out of here and not do
anything that's going to put myself in jeopardy or get it
(burns) infected or have long-lasting issues with it later.
So, whatever the cost, I want to get my leg right. That was
the number one thing.
“Until (the burn’s) gone or until it's right, I don't feel
like I'm 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
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