Dale Earnhardt Jr. happy to be back in action at Martinsville

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. –Don’t read anything into the new helmet Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be wearing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend.

He was considering a change before suffering the concussions that sidelined him for two races. The bottom line is that Earnhardt is just happy to be back, after going stir crazy during his enforced absence from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

“It’s been just a lot of time off — a lot of time on my hands,” Earnhardt said Friday before the opening Cup practice at Martinsville.

After running approximately 125 laps at Gresham Motorsports Park on Monday and meeting with neurologist Dr. Jerry Petty on Tuesday, Earnhardt was cleared to race, none too soon, as far as NASCAR’s most popular driver was concerned.

Asked whether he considered sitting out the rest of the season, Earnhardt demurred.

“I felt like I could have raced (last Sunday) at Kansas, for sure, and probably ran at Charlotte (Oct. 13) with no problem. I feel foolish. You know, I feel kind of foolish sitting at home feeling OK and not being in the car.

“It feels really unnatural. I feel good, and the doctors say it’s OK — I want to race.”

As far as the helmet goes, Earnhardt is shelving his customary Impact helmet for a Stilo brand this week.

“I don’t want anybody to put two and two together, thinking that I’m changing away from my Impact helmets because of the concussions,” Earnhardt said. “That’s not the case at all. I’ve just wanted to try the Stilo helmet since they made some modifications to it.

“It’s definitely not a final decision. I’m just checking it out, because I liked it before. I’ve enjoyed working with Impact, and I do like their helmets, and I just don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea there.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.