Dale Earnhardt Jr. not mulling retirement after concussion: ‘I’m not ready to quit’

Jul 9, 2016; Sparta, KY, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) waves to the fans during driver introductions prior to the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2016; Sparta, KY, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) waves to the fans during driver introductions prior to the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 9, 2016; Sparta, KY, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) waves to the fans during driver introductions prior to the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Currently mired in at least a five-race absence due to concussion issues, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has no plans of retiring. The Hendrick Motorsports driver met with media Friday at Watkins Glen to discuss his current health and plans to make a comeback.

“I’m surprised that I’ve missed this many races,” Earnhardt said. “I never thought this would take this long. I didn’t have a massive accident and I didn’t have really crazy symptoms. … I have every intention of honoring my current contract. I sat with Rick (Hendrick) before this happened a couple of months ago to talk about an extension.

“That is the direction that we are going. As soon as I can get healthy and get confident in how I feel and feel like I can drive a car and be great driving it then I want to drive.”

Junior’s concussion symptoms stem from a crash at Michigan earlier this season. It’s nothing new for the 41-year-old driver who dealt with similar issues back in 2012 and visited Dr. Jerry Petty, returning to the Sprint Cup Series to win the 2014 Daytona 500 and seven races during the last two seasons.

While Earnhardt will likely miss the Chase this season, he’s visiting with Dr. Petty again and has full confidence he’ll race again.

“I want to race,” Earnhardt said. “I miss the competition. I miss being here. I miss the people and as Rick likes to say ‘we’ve got unfinished business.’ I’m not ready to stop racing. I’m not ready to quit.”

Much to the chagrin of his fans, Earnhardt was still unable to give a timeline of his return. Fortunately, four-time champion Jeff Gordon has filled in for him thus far. Currently holding a NASCAR-record nine wins at road courses, Gordon hasn’t won at one since 2006 and has finished outside of the top 20 in the last four races at Watkins Glen.

Currently still suffering from the concussion, Junior noted he can’t give a timeline until he’s symptom free. His fan base — which is the largest in NASCAR — may be disappointed by his absence, but no more than Earnhardt himself.

“You just don’t know when the symptoms will stop,” Earnhardt said. “Every day I am doing these exercises to sort of retrain the brain to fix the issues that I have with the balance and to gain stability. It will fix itself when it decides to. There is no common history that will tell you that ‘Man, this is going to last a month.’ … And I’ve talked to other people with this history that didn’t last this long. That is why it is frustrating.”