After Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s number 88 Chevy was hit hard twice during the 25-car crash on the last lap at Talladega on Oct. 7, he kept rubbing his head as he spoke to reporters in the garage. He said he felt fine, but two days later—after a series of headaches—he did something almost unheard of from a race car driver vying for a title: He admitted he was injured. Earnhardt went to Charlotte neurosurgeon Jerry Petty, who diagnosed Earnhardt with a concussion, and now NASCAR's most popular driver won't return to the track until Oct. 28 at Martinsville at the earliest.
Why did Earnhardt seek medical help when most drivers would have concealed any injuries? ("If I have a shot at the championship," said Jeff Gordon last Saturday, "I'm not going to say anything.") The reason is simple: Earnhardt was worried. He'd had an earlier concussion (which he kept quiet), from an Aug. 29 crash in testing at Kansas. Said Earnhardt, "I probably need to rest...allow my brain to take a break and get some healing done."