Dale Earnhardt Jr. happy to be back in action at Martinsville

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. –Don’t read anything into the new helmet Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be wearing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend.

He was considering a change before suffering the concussions that sidelined him for two races. The bottom line is that Earnhardt is just happy to be back, after going stir crazy during his enforced absence from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

“It’s been just a lot of time off — a lot of time on my hands,” Earnhardt said Friday before the opening Cup practice at Martinsville.

After running approximately 125 laps at Gresham Motorsports Park on Monday and meeting with neurologist Dr. Jerry Petty on Tuesday, Earnhardt was cleared to race, none too soon, as far as NASCAR’s most popular driver was concerned.

Asked whether he considered sitting out the rest of the season, Earnhardt demurred.

“I felt like I could have raced (last Sunday) at Kansas, for sure, and probably ran at Charlotte (Oct. 13) with no problem. I feel foolish. You know, I feel kind of foolish sitting at home feeling OK and not being in the car.

“It feels really unnatural. I feel good, and the doctors say it’s OK — I want to race.”

As far as the helmet goes, Earnhardt is shelving his customary Impact helmet for a Stilo brand this week.

“I don’t want anybody to put two and two together, thinking that I’m changing away from my Impact helmets because of the concussions,” Earnhardt said. “That’s not the case at all. I’ve just wanted to try the Stilo helmet since they made some modifications to it.

“It’s definitely not a final decision. I’m just checking it out, because I liked it before. I’ve enjoyed working with Impact, and I do like their helmets, and I just don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea there.”

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