Should Dale Earnhardt Jr. sit out the rest of the season?
Now that it’s official that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss a minimum of two more races, it’s time for NASCAR’s most popular driver to pull the plug on the 2016 season altogether.
And I mean no disrespect to Earnhardt in saying that, but the bottom line is pretty basic: He has nothing at all to gain this season by climbing back behind the wheel of the No. 88 this season. Nothing.
If Earnhardt wants to race again, let him take the rest of this year off and come back healthy, rested and ready to compete in 2017.
And if he decides he wants to retire, that’s his prerogative. Nothing wrong with that, either.
But there simply is nothing to be gained by coming back this year. Earnhardt won’t be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and he won’t win a championship this year. So why take unnecessary risks?
There’s nothing harder for a racecar driver than to be out of the seat, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. Especially in this specific instance.
Let’s be blunt here: If Earnhardt’s concussion-like symptoms are bad enough to keep off the track for at least eight weeks — seven races and one off-week — it’s a serious situation.
Not to be alarmist about it, but Earnhardt has spent several hours a day for the past few weeks doing specific exercises the doctors want him to do to help his recovery.
He’s worked hard and followed the advice of his doctors regarding rehabbing and he’s still not been cleared to driver. And there’s no telling when he will be.
Maybe he’ll be cleared to run at Richmond, maybe he won’t.
But why risk it?
Like every Cup driver, Earnhardt is a fierce and proud competitor. But by all accounts he’s got a great life off the track — a fiancée who loves him, close friends and family and financial security.
He’s got a good enough resume behind the wheel that he doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. The fans miss him, sure. So do his crew, his team, fellow racers the track owners and promoters and TV people.
But health comes first.
So far, Earnhardt has said and done all the right things about taking care of himself. And maybe now he’ll take it one step further and decide to regroup for next year. It might be the very best decision he could make.