Hendrick Motorsports announced early Friday morning that Dale Earnhardt Jr., has not been medically cleared to race through the 2016 NASCAR season.
Earnhardt continues to recover from a concussion and has missed the last six Sprint Cup races. NASCAR’s most popular driver is undergoing treatment and evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program under the direction of Dr. Micky Collins and with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty.
“I wish I could return to the No. 88 team this season,” Earnhardt said. “To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, but I know this is the right thing for my long-term health and career. I’m 100 percent focused on my recovery, and I will continue to follow everything the doctors tell me. They’re seeing good progress in my test results, and I’m feeling that progress physically. I plan to be healthy and ready to compete at Daytona in February. I’m working toward that.”
“The support from both inside and outside the race team has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so encouraging and positive, from my teammates and sponsors to my family, friends and fans. It’s motivating and humbling at the same time.”
The remaining 12 races in the season will be split among drivers Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman. Four-time Cup Series champion Gordon, 45, filled in at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Bristol. Bowman, 23, drove at New Hampshire and Michigan.
“I know how hard Dale has worked and how frustrating this is for him,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He wants to be back, and we want him back, but we want it to be for the long haul. We’ve had incredible support from everyone involved with the team, including all of our sponsors. They’ve put Dale’s health first every step of the way.
“Jeff and Alex will give us a great opportunity over the rest of the season. Jeff is one of the best of all time and knows our system. He brings things to the table that no one else can. Alex is a young driver with a lot of talent, and he will give us a fresh perspective. We know they’re not only capable of running up front and giving us a chance to win, but they’ll help us get better.”
NO. 88 DRIVER SCHEDULE:
Sept. 4, Darlington Raceway – Jeff Gordon*
Sept. 10, Richmond International Raceway – Jeff Gordon
Sept. 18, Chicagoland Speedway – Alex Bowman
Sept. 25, New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Alex Bowman
Oct. 2, Dover International Speedway – Jeff Gordon
Oct. 8, Charlotte Motor Speedway – Alex Bowman
Oct. 16, Kansas Speedway – Alex Bowman
Oct. 23, Talladega Superspeedway – Alex Bowman
Oct. 30, Martinsville Speedway – Jeff Gordon
Nov. 6, Texas Motor Speedway – Alex Bowman
Nov. 13, Phoenix International Raceway – Alex Bowman
Nov. 20, Homestead-Miami Speedway – Alex Bowman
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and car owner Rick Hendrick will be available Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET in the Darlington Raceway media center. They will be joined by Dr. Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.