RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met briefly with media prior to the start of the New Hampshire 301. Full Transcript:
CAN YOU TELL US HOW DALE EARNHARDT JR IS DOING? HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE OUT IF HE HAS HAD A CONCUSSION, OR NOT?
"I'm not a doctor, but he's running through a bunch of tests and he's going to have some more tests the first of the week. He's doing good. He wants to be in the car. The doctors are going to tell him when it's okay for him to be back. And so, I know he's anxious. We want him back as soon as the doctors give him clearance."
WHAT ADVICE DOES HE ASK FROM YOU? HOW WORRIED ARE YOU FOR HIM AS A PERSON AND AS A DRIVER?
"Dale is special to me when you take the driving part away and I just want him to feel good when he gets back in the car. I don't want him to push himself. He's kind of an ‘Ironman'; he doesn't want to let the team down and doesn't want to let his fans down. We need him for the long pull. He wants to be in the car. The best thing the doctors can do is to go through all the protocol and then do all the tests. And there's a bunch of tests you do. So, when they say you're good to go, then he'll be back."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO JEFF GORDON, PERSONALLY?
WHAT DID HE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT POSSIBLY DRIVING THE NO. 88 CAR AT THE BRICKYARD NEXT WEEK?
"He thought I was kidding at first (laughter). He was on vacation and I asked him what he was doing next week and he said he'd be in Indy for one of the appearances he has to make. I said, ‘Well, bring your driver's uniform just in case.' He said, ‘Are you kidding?'; and I said, ‘No, I'm serious.' So, if Dale can't go then Jeff is ready to step in."
DO YOU IMAGINE JEFF GORDON WOULD CONTINUE IF JUNIOR'S PROBLEMS CONTINUE?
"I would think so. I haven't talked to him about it. We're just taking it a week at a time. Hopefully Dale's going to be back next week and it's not even something that we really think is going to happen. But if it does, Jeff is a team player and he wants to support the organization, and I'm sure he'll do whatever he has to do."
SINCE THIS IS THE SECOND TIME THAT DALE HAS HAD TO GET OUT OF THE CAR FOR THIS ISSUE, IS THERE ANY CONCERN ON YOUR PART THAT SOMETHING MORE SERIOUS WOULD GO ON THAT WOULD CURTAIL OR SHORTEN HIS CAREER?
"I don't think so. He and I talked about years beyond next year. And just around, I guess it was Daytona, if there was something major wrong, I think they would have seen it already. So, I'm very hopeful and he's very hopeful. And I think the doctors want to err on the side of being sure because we want him for a long time. He loves the fans. He loves the sport. He loves to race. And we love him in the organization. So, I'm proud of him. We thought it was an ear infection or maybe a nasal deal; he was taking medicine for that. And so, we'll just wait and see."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CONCUSSIONS IN GENERAL?
"I don't know anything about concussions. I'm not a doctor."
AS A TEAM OWNER, IF THERE IS THERE SOMETHING, DO YOU WANT YOUR DRIVERS TO TALK ABOUT IT?
"I think our guys know that the most important thing is their health. And if they're in an accident and they feel like they've had a concussion, there's a protocol and they need to go through it. They all know that. NASCAR is very aware and we've got some excellent doctors. I think that's something that NASCAR is taking care of. I've seen all the drivers' comments after this and I think all the guys are aware. They'll do the right thing."
HE WENT THROUGH THIS IS 2012. HAS HE SAID HOW HE FEELS NOW COMPARED TO THEN?
"You know, I actually didn't even remember him being out of the car in 2012. I'm over 65 and I've got an excuse. I'm hopeful and encouraged that he's going to be fine. We've just got to give him a little time to rest and hopefully it could be next week and we'll get a clean bill of health and he'll be released and he'll be in the car."
DID HE CALL YOU? IF SO, HOW DID THAT CONVERSATION GO?
"Actually, we were getting him an ear, nose, and throat doctor; that's what we were lining up. We were lining up someone just to check him out for that because that's where we started. And that came up clean. So, I was surprised. And I think that he was surprised. We'll just see what happens from here on."
IF JEFF GORDON GETS IN THE CAR AT INDY, HOW GOOD OF A JOB DO YOU THINK HE CAN DO? CAN HE SNAP RIGHT BACK INTO IT? HE'S WON SO MANY TIMES THERE. IF HE DOES RACE IN REPLACEMENT FOR DALE JUNIOR, HOW DO YOU THINK JEFF WILL DO?
"I think Jeff will do well. He's won that race a lot of times. He's been out of the car this year. I expect if he gets in the car, he might be a little bit rusty; but we've got a lot of practice time and I don't think it'll take Gordon long to get back in the groove."
BACK IN 2012, DALE DIDN'T TALK MUCH ABOUT HIS INITIAL INJURIES AFTER THE KANSAS ACCIDENT. ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT HE WASN'T SUFFERING ANYTHING AFTER MICHIGAN AND THAT HE'S BEEN HONEST WITH YOU ON HIS HEALTH?
"You know, I don't know if anybody is having any problems unless they tell me they're having problems, you know? And I didn't see anything and he didn't say anything. You guys (media) know about as much as I know. All I know is that he wasn't feeling good Monday and thought is was an inner ear or a nasal deal and was taking medication for it and just didn't feel right. So, that's about it."
HAVE YOU APPLIED FOR A WAIVER?
"No, I haven't. I haven't even thought about a waiver or any of that, right now."
HOW DOES NATIONWIDE (CAR SPONSOR) FEEL ABOUT ALL THIS?
"All of our folks are supportive. All of our sponsors, and Nationwide, want to put his health first; and so everybody is just excited about him getting better and getting backi."
WAS HE JUST FEELING HEADACHES AND SINUS PRESSURE? IS THAT THE ISSUE?
"I've had enough sinus infections to know when you're taking medication for that, you don't feel 100 percent, and that was it."
HOW IS DALE EARNHARDT, JR.'S HEALTH THIS WEEKEND AND HOW TOUGH HAS THIS WEEKEND BEEN ON HIM TO WATCH HIS RACE CAR WITHOUT HIM IN IT? â€¨"You know it's really tough. It's tough on Dale he wants to be here for the team, for his fans, for his sponsor and it's hard. But, when the doctors say you need to sit it out and let's run some more tests and make sure you are feeling 100 percent. You know Monday we thought it was a cold and a sinus infection, could have been an inner ear (infection) and then Wednesday the doctors said we need to make sure, we need to run some tests."
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM WOULD SAY THAT THIS WOULD BE A DIFFICULT DECISION FOR HIM TO HOP OUT OF THE RACE CAR. BUT WHEN YOU TAKE HIS HEALTH FIRST AND YOU CONSIDER THAT AS THE NUMBER ONE THING WAS THIS A VERY EASY DECISION FOR EVERYONE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? â€¨"Well you know we love Dale Earnhardt. We love all of our drivers and we want to see them good and healthy. To punish yourself when you don't feel good, it's tough enough if you just got a bad cold. It's hard to get out of the car, but we want him for the long haul. He wants to race for a long time, so we are going to let the doctors make those decisions. It's really hard at first and then the more you think about it it's the right thing to do for him and it's the right thing to do for the team and everyone else. He wants to get back and we want him back. We will just take it day by day."
IS THERE A TIMETABLE FOR A DECISION ON INDIANAPOLIS?
"I think probably by late Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning we've got to know. So, we will get that decision then and then we will go to plan B."
WELL IF HE CAN'T GO YOU TALKED A GUY OUT OF RETIREMENT TO COME BACK FOR INDIANAPOLIS. HOW TOUGH WAS THAT TO TALK JEFF (GORDON) INTO GETTING IN THE NO. 88 CAR IF DALE CANNOT GO? â€¨"Well he set himself up. I said… of course he's concerned about Dale and I said ‘what are you doing next weekend?' He said ‘well I'm going to be in Indy making an appearance.' I said, ‘well if Dale can't go bring your uniform.' I think he thought I was kidding at first, but Jeff (Gordon) is a team player and I hope we don't have to use him, but he is there and I think he is a pretty good back-up."