Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced a fair amount of success on the NASCAR track. Earnhardt Jr.‘s time behind the wheel was also plagued by concussions that forced him into retirement in the prime of his career. One of those instances that contributed to his premature departure came after a terrifying crash in only his third season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career
Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s spent more than two decades on the NASCAR track.
Earnhardt Jr. began his run with a pair of Xfinity Series championships followed by 19 years as a full-time Cup Series driver. Over that span, he earned 26 wins and two Daytona 500 victories.
Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career also featured several scary moments that impacted his health significantly over the long haul.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cried out for help from his pit crew after frightening NASCAR wreck: ‘Help me, hurry up’
One of those came in 2002 during the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. began the race in the ninth position and had a chance to garner a strong finish.
However, things quickly headed sideways on Lap 225 on turn four after Kevin Harvick’s tire blew out, causing his car to drift sharply into Dale Jr’s No. 8 vehicle. It led him to collide violently with the outside wall before making his way into the infield grass.
During an interview with HBO’s Real Sports in September 2018, a video from the crash included the radio audio from the incident, revealing Earnhardt Jr. crying out for immediate help from his pit crew.
“Help me. Help me. Help me. Hurry up.”
It was a wreck that Earnhardt Jr. immediately knew something was wrong far beyond a bruised and swollen right ankle.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Earnhardt Jr. recalled. “I just felt like a shotgun went off besides my head. The violence from that crash was shocking. I was radioing to my crew.”
“Back then we didn’t the awareness and education. “The information to go ‘This is a concussion. I need to take this seriously.’ You would get banged up and go ‘I’m dizzy guys.’ It was almost like you were back slapping about it.”
At the time of the injury, Earnhardt Jr. didn’t receive additional treatment or miss any time on the track. He finished out the season without a hitch, placing 11th in the points standings, including a second win at Talladega later that campaign.
Concussion issues guided him into an early NASCAR retirement
It’s instances such as the 2002 crash in Fontana that contributed to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s health issues later in his career.
Each time, Earnhardt Jr. would push through the situation and remain on the track without missing any time. The utter lack of proper treatment for his concussions eventually led to strong symptoms surfacing in 2016, forcing him to cut that season prematurely short.
Moreover, it pushed him to retire in 2017 for the betterment of his long-term health. Since stepping into retirement, Earnhardt Jr. has written a book about his situation and revealed that he suffered anywhere between 20 to 25 concussions.
His continued presence around the sport has only helped bring greater attention and awareness to the issue that plagues many drivers. Although many haven’t come forward publicly concerning the matter, Earnhardt Jr. is a pseudo face for the problem in the sport.