Dale Earnhardt Jr. provides update on condition; Townley out at Eldora

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

John Wes Townley will not compete in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway as he remains under treatment for a possible concussion the team revealed Monday.  Townley has not raced since the Camping World Truck race at Gateway at the end of June.  He withdrew from the NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway saying he was focusing on the following week’s truck and ARCA race.  The team then announced that Townley would miss those races as well as he underwent treatment for a possible concussion.

Townley was diagnosed with a concussion in August of 2014 after a crash in qualifying at Pocono Raceway prior to an ARCA race. He missed the ARCA and the truck races at Pocono in the day following his accident in ARCA qualifying. He then missed the ARCA race the following week and the truck race at Michigan two weeks after the accident.

Monday the team said that ARCA competitor Brady Boswell will drive the No. 05 Chevrolet at Eldora for Townley. The 19-year-old Boswell, like Townley, is a resident of Watkinsville, Ga. Both drivers are graduates of North Oconee High School in Bogart, Ga.

Also Monday NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke publically for the first time since he was forced withdraw from last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with concussion-like symptoms.

In a podcast posted on his website, Earnhardt said he is working with doctors on his recovery.  He said he is suffering with vertigo and battling nausea.

“It’s just going to take a lot of patience,” Earnhardt said. “My health and quality of life is a top priority. I always do that. So I’m going to take this slow and strictly follow the advice of my doctors and try to learn as much as I can to be smarter and wiser. It’s always been a real experience to go through this stuff because you learn so much.”

“My mind feels real sharp.,” he added. “I took the ImPACT test, which measures thought process and the speed of your thought process, memory and retaining memory and my results matched my baseline, which made me feel confident my brain was pretty sharp. It feels good.”

Since 2014, NASCAR has required drivers to take a preseason baseline neurocognitive test. The ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) procedure evaluates an athlete’s verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. If a driver has a crash during the season, the test is administered to help determine if there is a possible concussion.

Earnhardt has been diagnosed with at least three concussions during his racing career. He suffered a concussion at the Fontana race in April of 2002. He continued to race and didn’t reveal the injury until September.  He suffered two more concussions  in 2012 in a period of six-weeks: a hard crash during a tire test at Kansas Speedway, another big crash at Talladega Superspeedway. After the Talladega crash, Earnhardt went to a doctor for an evaluation. The doctor forced him to miss two races in October because of the injury.

Recently Earnhardt was involved in a multi-car crash at Daytona on July 2. In June Earnhardt crashed in the race at Michigan.  He failed to finish at Michigan, and struggled to a 21st place finish at Daytona.  Earnhardt wasn’t a factor the following Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, starting and finishing 13th.

The status for Earnhardt and whether he will race this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be known by Wednesday. If he is not cleared to race, Hendrick Motorsports will have driver Jeff Gordon step out of retirement to race the No. 88 Chevy.

“I’m going to continue to work with my doctors to understand more about the injury and how to treat it,” Earnhardt said. “They can give me a lot exercises to retrain my brain to handle what I need to handle.”

As for Townley the team said he is scheduled to be re-evaluated by his physician on Monday July 25th. The team said it anticipates Townley gaining medical clearance to return to competition in ARCA and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for events next week at Pocono Raceway.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 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.