DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Danica Patrick said she could relate to Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he said he’d suffered numerous concussions throughout his time as a driver.
“I’ve had concussions,” Patrick said. “Every time you crash you have a concussion on a varying degree, I’m sure. So when he said something about having 12 concussions I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.’”
Earnhardt Jr. is making his return to the Cup Series in 2017 after missing the second half of 2016 because of concussions sustained over the summer. Junior has discussed his transparency during his recovery process numerous times, and Patrick said that openness has helped raise the level of awareness in the garage.
“Now, I don’t think anyone else has as much luxury sponsorship-wise as Dale Jr. probably does to be able to just get out of the car like that, but it also is coming from a big-name driver that is setting the standard for well-being and it’s admirable,” Patrick said. “I think we like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers, like we feel fine and nothing is wrong, but it’s our life.”
She continued and said she’d call her racing career quits if someone said to her that her next wreck could pose a high risk for a debilitating concussion. Junior has said doctors have told him that the exercises he did during his recovery over the last half of 2016 have made him stronger than he was entering the season.
“If there was someone that told me or I would hope any other driver if you have another wreck you could have a serious problem, they would be out,” Patrick said. “I would be out because I love what I do, but I love lots of other things and I also love life and I’m too young to have it be over, so it’s a good lesson for a lot of people and a good education. Just like in that movie ‘Concussion,’ which is something that we watched after it happened, maybe there will be some more tests and things run to be able to test better and know more about our concussions and our symptoms and how it happens over time.”
Patrick’s team enters the 2017 season currently searching for sponsorship to take the place of Nature’s Bakery. Stewart-Haas Racing filed suit against the company, saying it owes nearly $32 million in payments owed for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Nature’s Bakery signed a three-year deal with SHR to sponsor Patrick before the season and terminated its relationship with the team in January.
The company said it will file counterclaims to SHR’s suit and has said alleged Patrick didn’t do what she was asked as a sponsor by promoting other products via her social media channels.
“I think that it was a shock to all of us that one year into a three-year deal that there was a problem, but everything that was ever asked of me I did to the very best of my ability,” Patrick said.
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