Rick Hendrick on Earnhardt: "We want him around for a long time"

Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick said he doesn’t believe Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion symptoms are something that will curtail or shorten his NASCAR career.

Rick Hendrick on Earnhardt: "We want him around for a long time"
Rick Hendrick
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports general manager, Alex Bowman and Greg Ives, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief
Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with team owner Rick Hendrick

“You know, he and I have talked about beyond next year and that was around Daytona. If there was something major wrong, I think (doctors) would have seen it already,” Hendrick said Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I’m very hopeful. He’s very hopeful and I think the doctors are going to error on the side of being sure. We want him around for a long time. He loves the fans. He loves the sport. He loves to race and we love him in the organization.”

HMS announced Thursday that Earnhardt would sit out Sunday’s race with concussion-like symptoms. Alex Bowman is driving his No. 88 Chevrolet in the race.

Undergoing several tests

Hendrick said the team and Earnhardt had been operating on the idea he was suffering from an ear infection or issues with his sinuses.

“He’s running through a bunch of tests and he’s going to have some more tests at the first of the week,” Hendrick said. “He’s doing good and he wants to be in the car. The doctors will tell him when it’s OK to be back.

“I know he’s anxious and we want him back as soon as the doctors give him clearance.”

Hendrick said he was proud of Earnhardt’s decision to come forward about the concussion issues and seek help for the problem.

“I just want him to feel good when he gets back in the car. I don’t want him to push himself. He’s kind of an ‘iron man’ – he doesn’t want to let his team down and he doesn’t want to let his fans down,” Hendrick said.

“But we need him for the long pull. He wants to be in the car but the best thing the doctors can do is go through the protocol and do all the tests. When they say, ‘You’re good to go,’ they he’ll be back.”

Gordon thought the offer was a joke

HMS had already announced that if Earnhardt cannot compete next weekend, recently retired driver Jeff Gordon will drive the No. 88 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hendrick said when he first asked Gordon about driving, he thought he was joking.

“He was on vacation and I asked him what he was doing next week and he said he would be at Indy, it was one of his appearances,” he said. “I told him, ‘Then bring your driver’s uniform just in case.’

“I told him I was serious. If Dale can’t go, then Jeff will step in. I’m hopeful and encouraged that Dale will be fine – we just have to give him a little time to rest. Next week, hopefully he will get a clean bill of health and he’ll be in the car.”

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