"With the Chase coming up, I didn't know how difficult — if I was to volunteer myself to get medical attention and be removed from the car, I didn't know how difficult it would be to get back in," he said.
After a 25-car accident on the last lap of Sunday's race at Talladega left him with a lingering headache, he put his fate in the hands of neurosurgeon, who said the risk was too great for Earnhardt to race Saturday night or next week at Kansas. Earnhardt will be replaced in the beloved No. 88 Chevrolet by Regan Smith the next two weeks, and he said he'll stay home Saturday night so he is not a distraction to the team.
NASCAR acknowledged it will re-visit its procedures since Earnhardt raced for six weeks following his first concussion. It praised him for stepping up and seeking medical attention this week as he marked his 38th birthday.
"I think you saw a driver who is racing for a championship, who is our most popular driver, get up here and ask to go see a doctor and get out of a car. That takes a lot of guts," said senior vice president Steve O'Donnell. "I think it also shows where our sport has come, and they know that safety is first and foremost. We know it's a dangerous sport, but we've got to be relying on our drivers too to be up front with us."
But there's a danger involved with not being up front with NASCAR that differs from other sports. Driving a car injured at nearly 200 mph doesn't carry the same implications as, say, lining up on the football field. There is a distinct danger to others.
"The temptation is to persevere though adversity," said points leader Brad Keselowski. "But sometimes you compete through an injury and perpetuate whatever damage there is. Or, even worse, risk those around you.
"The difference in our sport is that when you're unable to make great decisions or you lose your focus, the potential is there for others to get hurt. If you can't focus (in football), you miss the play. In racing, if you can't focus, you knock the wall down or you wreck somebody."