CONCORD, N.C. >> Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final weekend as a full-time driver at Charlotte Motor Speedway got off to a rough start when he crashed moments into today’s opening practice.
Earnhardt drove into the high line of the track and slipped in the grippy substance Charlotte officials had used on the surface. It caused him to hit the wall and his Hendrick Motorsports team had to pull out his backup car.
Earnhardt wasn’t very happy about his misfortune and felt the compound — known as PJ1 — was too slick.
“I’m avoiding it until somebody can go up there and shows me there is a lap up there,” said Earnhardt. “I ain’t going near it, on purpose. Might end up (there) accidentally a few times, but I don’t think anybody is willing to go up there without seeing somebody do it first. It’s obviously very slick. It’s like ice.”
The day picked up after practice when Earnhardt was given his retirement gift from Charlotte Motor Speedway: $100,000 to establish the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund at Carolinas Healthcare System’s Levine’s Children’s Hospital. The gift will underwrite ImPACT baseline concussion testing for more than 10,000 students in eight area counties. Mooresville High School, Earnhardt’s alma mater, will be added to the program that includes “blink reflexometry” research.
Members of the Mooresville High School football team were on hand for the presentation, and Earnhardt shook hands with each of them. He’s retiring at the end of the season, in part because of multiple concussions he’s received while racing.
Earnhardt has requested tracks to consider gift that will impact the local community during his retirement tour rather than give him extravagant items.
“I didn’t’ need any silly stuff or goofy gifts that I’m just going to go store away in a warehouse that you’ll never see,” Earnhardt said. “I thought this was a great opportunity to make an impact in each community and I feel real blessed. I can’t imagine there’s anything I need or they could come up with that I’d be ‘Yeah, I’ve been looking for this!’
“It just feels so good to see others be helped. I want everybody to be happy, that’s kind of my thing, the way I’ve always been. Hopefully this season makes a lot of people happy.”