Dale Earnhardt Jr. reiterated on Wednesday that he continues to have every intention of returning to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to drive the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2017, beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 next February.
Earnhardt, who has been sidelined since early July because of a concussion and will not return for the remainder of this season, spoke at a promotional event Wednesday at the corporate headquarters of Wrangler.
Earnhardt has long been a spokesman for the brand, which unveiled a statute of “Dale Jr. jeans” during the elaborate “Jeansboro Day” festivities.
Earnhardt said he is continuing to make progress as he attempts to recover from symptoms related to the concussion.
“It’s coming along pretty good. We had a lot of wrecks this year and got dinged up pretty good, started having some issues with some concussion symptoms several weeks after a wreck in Michigan (in June),” Earnhardt said. “I knew right away I had to go get it looked at, and I had some great doctors that I had worked with in the past at (the University of) Pittsburgh. I had a concussion in 2012 and they helped me a lot.
“These are some of the best people in the country at working on concussions and head injuries today, so I felt real comfortable about going up there and getting looked at. They’ve been working with me, and I’ve been up there several times since for more evaluations. I’ve seen a lot of progress in the treatment that they gave me, and it’s been a really interesting experience.
“But I’m starting to feel real good, starting to be able to get out and enjoy some things and be myself. I miss being in the car, but we have every expectation of being in the race car come February for the Daytona 500.”
For a long while after first suffering the symptoms, Earnhardt avoided the types of events and crowds that he seemed to enjoy being a part of on Wednesday. He said that has enabled him to do more in recent weeks in regards to attending competition meetings at Hendrick Motorsports and taking part in such meetings at actual races that he has resumed attending on a regular basis.
“I’ve been going to the races. I’m doing everything I was doing before except for the driving. Take the driving out,” a smiling Earnhardt told FOX Sports after Wednesday’s event.
He said he is looking forward to attending this weekend’s race events at Talladega Superspeedway, where a Chase playoff elimination race will be held on Sunday.