Dale Earnhardt Update (Tuesday)
2 September 1997KANNAPOLIS, NC - Don Hawk, President of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., took a few moments this morning to brief the media on Earnhardt's current status following an overnight hospital stay in Darlington, SC on Sunday.
"He was released from the hospital and he's typical Dale," said Hawk. "He's ready to tackle the world and obviously, by his statements, he's ready to tackle the race track. Before he does that, however, the doctors told him that he needed to get a couple of more tests done."
According the Hawk, Dale and wife Teresa were already on their way to an undisclosed hospital for those tests which he declined to name specifically. "At this point, we're just safe to say that they're going to do some things that they weren't able to do at the McLeod Medical Center. When the tests are completed, two of the finest medical institutions in America are going to take a look at the results. We're going to have more than one opinion, obviously."
Hawk, who has been associated with the veteran driver for nearly four and a half years, went on to recount the events during Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 which led up to Earnhardt being transported to the hospital. "I started the race like normal with Dale at the race car. He actually nodded off a little before the race. It's not unusual for Dale to doze off before a race or under a red flag condition. So that didn't strike us as completely uncommon. But when we woke him up and he nodded off a second time when we told him to start the engine...right there I sensed something I really hadn't seen ever before in him."
As the #3 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet circled the track during the pace laps it began to be clear to Hawk that something was very wrong with the driver. "He only spoke one time and his voice was very unclear," he continued. "It was not the Dale Earnhardt that I knew. Richard sensed the same thing I did and was trying to get my attention to see if we could somehow get another pace lap out of the thing to try to pull Dale in to get him out of the car. But by the time I got to the backstretch (where Dale's pit stall was located) and Richard and I talked about it, it was already too late. They threw the green flag.
"The rest you all saw. He touched the wall in a couple of places and circled the track a couple of times and we had next to no communication with him until the second time he went by us on the backstretch. Finally Richard just screamed at him and said, 'Dale, park the car now. Stop the car.' And he (Earnhardt) said, 'I'm sorry. I saw two race tracks.' So the next time by he came in. We took him out of the car. I was holding on to him to take his pulse rate because I know what his pulse rate normally is. It was normal but he was pretty limp. We set him behind the wall, put him on oxygen and took him to the infield care center."
From there Earnhardt was taken to McLeod Regional Medical Center. "They checked -- I'll slightly exaggerate and say somewhere between a hundred and two hundred different options. So far, everything is negative. That's good news. If there's anything that's bad about it, it's that you don't know what caused it yet. We're trying to get a good answer to that."
When asked whether the seven-time Winston Cup champion was concerned about the situation, Hawk replied, "Obviously there's a concern inside of him because his dad died of a heart attack at a very similar age. But Dale does not live in fear which is why he got back in a race car after Talladega and after Daytona. He doesn't fear. He's concerned though. I've seen that concern only a few times and this is one of those times."
With medical tests still ongoing, Earnhardt's status as far as racing this weekend at Richmond International Raceway is still very much up in the air. And while Hawk admits that there has been some discussion among Childress and others at RCR about a possible plan of action, he pointed out that they have not yet approached their driver about the issue of a possible replacement. "We are thinking about what if. Richard and I and maybe a few others have talked behind Dale's back. But that's one of those things where if you tug on Superman's cape, you might get whacked. It's a realistic thing that you've got to face. There's just been no one brave enough to discuss that with Dale at this point."
Lori Vizza - The Auto Channel