Earnhardt regrets hiding injury

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to the media after the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at Encore Las Vegas on November 29, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — In part, the 2012 Cup season will be remembered for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s exit from the No. 88 Chevrolet because of a concussion.

In retrospect, Earnhardt regrets not taking a hiatus from competition sooner than he did.

On Aug. 29, during a tire test at Kansas, Earnhardt sustained a concussion in a hard crash. He knew he was hurt but decided to keep the severity of his injury to himself.

A subsequent crash at Talladega caused a second concussion and forced Earnhardt from the car for two races.

“I think I should have taken the first concussion more seriously,” Earnhardt said Thursday, after being honored as the sport’s most popular driver for the 10th straight year. “I think I should have been smarter about it the first time, when we crashed at Kansas. I didn’t feel good, and I started getting nauseous after that.

“I knew right then, for damn sure, that I had a really bad concussion. I wish I would have taken that more seriously. I don’t know if it would have changed anything. It’s a tough decision to make, going into the Chase. I’d dealt with concussions before, and I thought that I’d just drive through it, and it’s be over in a couple of weeks…

“But I wasn’t lucky enough to avoid another accident, so I feel foolish in that regard, that I was careless.”

Missing two races cost Earnhardt any possibility of winning his first championship and dropped him to 12th in the final standings.

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