Racing is a tough sport
By David Swope
August 19, 2017
BRISTOL, Tenn.—At the conclusion of the Food City 300 XFINITY Series night race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided a quick stop at the Infield Care Center might be a good idea.
“My hands were cramping at the end of the race and I got the race tomorrow,” Earnhardt Jr. said to The Racing Experts as he was being released from the Infield Care Center. “I sweat, I sweat—I sweated a lot today.
“Going in and out of both cars through the process this afternoon, I sweated a ton yesterday during XFINITY practice. This [fire suit] is so wet. So just precautionary, you know, preemptive.”
The story started a few minutes earlier when Earnhardt Jr. had climbed from his car following the race.
Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th in his first start in NASCAR’s second-tier series this season.
I asked him if there was anything that he had learned from the Food City 300 that he could carry over to the Bass Pro Shop NRA Night Race.
He seemed winded and had trouble speaking, so I commented that he needed to catch his breath.
“Yeah, I’m tired,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
I asked him if he was alright, but did not get a response. Instead, I looked up and we had walked directly to the Infield Care Center at Bristol Motor Speedway.
I waited outside the facility for any word on his condition.
Jim Utter of Motorsport.com had also been trying to find out what was going on so we joined forces.
Utter asked Earnhardt Jr. about his ability to drive in the Saturday night race.
“Oh yeah, I think this was just a smart thing to do considering how many laps we have to run tomorrow,” Earnhardt Jr. said with a nod. “Just wanted to be on the safe side as far as hydration goes.”
Earnhardt Jr. missed the final 18 races of the 2016 Cup Series season because of concussion-like symptoms. When he announced his retirement at the end of this season, he sighted his desire to enjoy his life following his retirement with the highest heath options.
I asked him during the interview if those concerns were part of his decision to seek help.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I have been in the care center before to get fluids. When me and Dad raced that race in Michigan in the IROC series back in 1999, I went from Victory Lane and congratulating him to getting fluids,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
“I have been in there before to get fluids and it’s just an easy and cheap way to get hydrated.”
The weather was 80-85 degrees during the majority of the day Friday with 85 percent humidity.
At times, there was cloud cover and a short rain storm that delayed XFINITY qualifying which was shorted to a single 20-minute session. The temperature following the race was 72 degrees but the humidity was still 85 percent.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 31st in the Bass Pro Shop NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
This will be the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s final confirmed start at Bristol in the Cup Series and was evident from the cheers from the fans during driver’s introductions, he will be missed on the track.
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
David Swope/The Racing Experts