By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Last year’s Quaker State 400 was the tipping point in Dale Earnhardt’s season.
Not only that. The symptoms NASCAR’s most popular driver suffered during race weekend at Kentucky Speedway brought him to a crossroads in his personal and professional life.
That was the weekend that concussion-like symptoms he first experienced in June at Michigan became so severe that Earnhardt was forced to step out of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the rest of the season.
Through an arduous rehabilitation, Earnhardt recovered and earned medical clearance to drive again. But he also married long-time girlfriend Amy Reimann during the offseason and experienced life outside the race car for an extended period of time.
Ultimately, Earnhardt decided the 2017 season would be his last as a full-time NASCAR driver.
As he returned to Kentucky on Friday, Earnhardt recalled the circumstances that started his life-changing decision process in motion.
“I was not feeling too good physically and, yeah, I’ve thought about that quite a bit just how big a difference it is from today compared to last year,” he said. “It reminds you about how much we had to overcome and how much rehab went into trying to get healthy. And, yeah, this is where it all kind of started to come to the surface, where the symptoms and all that stuff started to be a concern.
“It’s a bit of a reminder, and I’m proud that we worked so hard to come back and worked hard to get healthy. You start racing this year you kind of forget about last year, and I think we all do… we kind of forget about everything that happened and little dates like this will bring those memories back and remind you to be thankful and fortunate.”