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Amy’s #NASCAR Reading List: Racing To The Finish: My Story by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Posted by Amy in All About Amy | NASCAR

When I saw that Dale Earnhardt Jr had a book out, I one-clicked it on my Kindle without even reading the description. I figured if NOTHING else I could use Racing To The Finish: My Story as another book review for ye old racing blog. I will say that while the book was not what I expected, it was good and some of it hit a little close to home for me- someone who hasn’t suffered a concussion in her life, But I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.  Since I didn’t read the description, I had expected the book to be a general memoir.  It is not.

This book does detail  Dale’s life story but only referentially. The focus on this book is his experiences with concussions in NASCAR. The book starts with a Forward by Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins, the Director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program before Dale dives into anything. In the Forward, Micky, as he’s referred to throughout the book, talks about his experiences working with Dale throughout many years with his concussions.

As a clinician in charge of his car, I never really worrkied about the return-to-racing issue; I was much more focused on his living his life without the burden of and hypervigilance about his debilitating symptoms.   – Dr. Michael Collins, Racing To The Finish.

As you will find out as you read the book these symptoms varied both in manifestation and severity depending on the concussion.

In the book Dale started with a preface of Talladega in May 2014, aptly called A Lift, A Secret, And A Promise.  He talks about the how and why of him lifting (for those Non-racing fans who might stumble upon this, lifting means just what you probably think it does. He lifted his foot from the accelerator, he slowed down, backed off) during a race. Something he would usually never do.

So…I lifted. I did. I backed off and got out of there. – Dale Jr., Racing To The Finish.

It is at this point for me the book starts. He talks about why he lifted, and the embarrassment after he had done it. What lifting his foot off the accelerator, something drivers in passenger cars do on a daily basis without even contemplating it, meant for him. That sets the readers of his book to know what kind of person and racer Dale is.

While the preface of Racing To The Finish sets readers up who Dale is, the first chapter, Hammerhead sets up his story from his roots. It talks about how he was born into a racing family.  He spoke about the racer’s mentality when it came to driving injured. This racer’s attitude and I dare say athlete’s approach is fundamentally a huge issue today. And something that I think is a theme throughout the book on multiple levels.

You didn’t get out of your racecar, no matter what. Broke a bone? Suck it up, man. Got your bell rung? Shake it off, take a headache powder, and get ready for the next race. Racecar drivers are hardheaded. - Dale Jr. Racing To The Finish.

The rest of the book chronicles Dale’s racing life from about 2012 until his retirement at the end of the 2016 racing season. But not season to season that he focuses on. It’s concussion to concussion. The wrecks that caused these injuries. It even goes into the different kinds of concussions, the different treatment for the different types of concussions, and the anxiety that comes with them.

It’s here that I am going to break in and talk about myself for a minute.  As I mentioned at the opening- as far as I know, I have never had a concussion in my life.  Not that I remember. However, an about 18 months ago I have started suffering from some peculiar vestibular (that is as Dale describes it “the vestibular system is the balance center of your brain. That is where our minds interpret motion, stabilize our vision when we’re moving, and coordinate the movement of our head and eyes“) symptoms that are quite disconcerting.  I have been to several doctors about these issues (my general practitioner, two ENTs, two neurologists, and a physical therapist).  I have had tests (two MRIs, a VNG, and a CATscan) and taken medication. As my most recent neurologist has said, balance issues are incredibly hard to diagnose unless there is a clear reason for them (think concussion, stroke, diseases such as MS). One of my main frustrations is trying to describe how I feel. I identify HARD with the symptoms Dale describes throughout the book. Some of them are how I feel. And when he talks about the anxiety about how he feels, do people see how he can’t even stand up or walk, I relate to that too, a lot.

He has shared his story to better educate those who have experienced this injury and to accurately share that effective treatments are available. – Dr. Michael Collins, Racing To The Finish.

When you suddenly experience disconcerting symptoms like feeling off balance when you walk, or feel like you are going to fall, can’t walk a straight line, or when the blinking of the turn signal of the car in front of you makes you feel off-kilter, your brain freaks out. All of the sudden you can’t help but wonder what everyone else thinks of you, how you walk funny and wonder what is wrong with you.  Anyway, I didn’t expect to identify so much with this book or Dale Jr’s concussion story on such a personal level but that is what reading does to you sometimes.

I highly recommend Racing To The Finish, not just to Dale Fans or even racing fans. But to any athlete, fan of athletics or someone experiencing some weird vestibular issue.  If a biopic of Dale’s entire life is the kind of book you are looking for- do not purchase this book for you may be disappointed, but it was what I was expecting, yet I got much more out of it.

_____

For Full-Disclosure purposes (I am looking at you FTC):

I purchased this book myself, it was NOT provided for me by any entitiy for review purposes. As always, the words, thoughts, and opinions on this book are my own. The links provided in the review are not affiliate links, and I make no money off of the links.

Click here for other installments of Amy’s #NASCAR Reading List

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