FOX NASCAR Quotes: Waltrip, Hammond and Petree Discuss Earnhardt Jr.’s Absence

On Thursday’s NASCAR RACE HUB on FS1, FOX NASCAR analysts extensively discussed Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s latest announcement that he will sit out at least the next two NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES races due to concussion-like symptoms. Below are highlights from FOX NASCAR analysts Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Andy Petree’s discussion:

On Dale Earnhardt Jr. returning to the race car:

Petree: “Doctors can test for a lot of things, but they cannot test for how big of a lick he can take going forward. They can probably get him healed up and symptom-free, but in the end, it’s going to be a personal decision for Dale Jr. on when he comes back or whether he comes back because they don’t really have a way to measure that."

Hammond: “My biggest concern is you hear these doctors talking about the severity of this injury, and you start to wonder when the doctors are going to say, ‘Dale, we advise you not to get back in that race car.’ That’s what I’m kind of scared of. It seems like this is taking a lot longer than a lot of us ever imagined it would. I’m glad to see him going through the due diligence, but I’m nervous about him getting back in the car, even if they know he’s well."

Waltrip: “The concussion thing is so new to everybody – the research that’s being done, the things that we don’t know. I think back to my friend, Dario Franchitti, who had a wreck at Houston and injured his neck, and they told him he couldn’t race anymore. Even more recently, Will Power, another IndyCar driver, had concussion-like symptoms and the doctors told him he couldn’t race. There are a lot of things that we don’t know, but with people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dario donating their brains for research, in the future we’ll look back and know this is the early stages of trying to learn what the effects of a concussion are.

“Dale wants to get back in that race car. A lot of people say, ‘He doesn’t need to get back in the car. He may never drive again.’ That’s not true. I look for him to be in a car in a couple of weeks, to tell the truth."

On advice for Earnhardt if he returns to the car:

Waltrip: “My advice to him is don’t push it. If you don’t get to race again this year, so what? If you get back in the car and you’re sharp as a tack and you’re ready to go and feel good and want to race and are excited about it, that’s what we look for."

On the impact on NASCAR of Earnhardt being out of the car for so long:

Waltrip: “You’re talking about the 13-time most popular driver. We see it at the races every week when Dale takes the lead – 90-percent of the fans stand up and cheer. He’s a superstar in our car. Fans care about Dale Jr. and his health and happiness and about him being around for a long time, whether as a driver, owner or spectator. If I were him, that’s what I’d be most excited about – that his team, owner and fans support what he’s doing."

Petree: “The sport has always had an Earnhardt. Everyone wants to see him out there. It’s definitely a big impact if he’s not – not only for Hendrick Motorsports but for NASCAR and all the tracks. Every track that has a race coming up is hoping they’ll have Dale Earnhardt Jr. in their event."

Hammond: “Look at what the team is going through. They are rallying around him and wanting him to get back in the race car because he is their driver. I’m sure Rick Hendrick is struggling also to figure out what the team’s future will look like if he can’t come back. What do we do if he comes back and it happens again? There are a lot of unanswered questions."

On what a long-term solution is for filing the No. 88 Chevrolet seat:

Hammond: “It’s not just the employees but the sponsors. There’s so much stuff going on within the sport. We’re trying to sign a new title sponsor for NASCAR, and they’re wondering if Dale Jr. will be involved or not. Where do we really go here because he is an icon in this sport? If he isn’t there, who’s going to be the face of NASCAR now?"

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