In honor of local hero Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s considerable contributions to the NASCAR community throughout his iconic career, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Children’s Charities have established the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund at Carolinas Healthcare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The $100,000 gift underwrites ImPACT baseline concussion testing for more than 10,000 student athletes at 62 middle schools, high schools and athletic associations across eight area counties as well as Johnson C. Smith University and Gardner-Webb University.
Mooresville High School – which Earnhardt attended – will also be added to the comprehensive program, which will also fund cutting-edge “blink reflexometry” research – which uses a person’s blinking reflexes to diagnose concussions. Additionally, the gift will support local concussion seminars for parents, students, coaches and pediatricians.
“Charlotte Motor Speedway is NASCAR’s home track and Dale Jr.’s home track, so we wanted to present him with a gift will have an impact here at ‘home’,” said Marcus Smith, the president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. “In addition to everything he’s accomplished as a competitor, Dale Jr. has been passionate about raising concussion awareness through his own experiences and helping children through The Dale Jr. Foundation. We want the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund to do both with a significantly positive influence throughout the Charlotte region.”
“Sports-induced concussions are on the rise for our young athletes, but thanks to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Children’s Charities, local schools and athletic associations will have access to the most advanced concussion management tools available in the greater Charlotte area,” said Mark Griffith, assistant vice president of major gifts at Carolinas HealthCare Foundation.
Earnhardt’s numerous accomplishments – including becoming the first rookie to win the NASCAR All-Star Race as well as claiming 26 NASCAR Cup Series victories, two XFINITY Series championships and 14 Most Popular Driver awards – have endeared the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native to millions of race fans across the country.
“This is a great gift that will impact a lot of lives in the area and make a real difference,” Earnhardt said. “This track has always been really special to me. I really appreciate it. That’s a gesture that’s going to have such a long-lasting impact.”
Following in his famous father’s footsteps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his historic NASCAR Cup Series debut in the “Countdown to E Day” in May of 1999 at the Coca Cola 600. The younger Earnhardt’s first career Cup Series pole was for the 2000 Coca-Cola 600. Earnhardt’s JR Nation Appreci88ion Tour continues with Sunday’s Bank of America 500 – Earnhardt’s final start at his home track in his last season as a full-time driver.
“Dale Jr. has made an indelible mark on NASCAR as a driver, team owner and advocate of safety,” said Greg Walter, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s executive vice president. “Off the track, he’s made his mark as a philanthropist, and we’re proud to help establish a program that will have educational benefits for young people and their parents in the realm of concussion awareness and treatment protocols.”
All tickets to Sunday’s Bank of America 500 are also good for admission to the Saturday night Brad Paisley concert presented by Wrangler and Nationwide at zMAX Dragway. For tickets, camping packages and upgrades, fans can call the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shop online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
CMS PR (CMS/HHP photo)