Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared by physicians to compete in at least the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events while he continues to recover from a concussion. NASCAR’s most popular driver will miss the races at Watkins Glen International (Aug. 7) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 20).
The team said four time champion Jeff Gordon who came out of retirement to sub for Earnhardt will continue in that role for the two races. Gordon took over for Earnhardt at Indianapolis and raced the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy this past Monday at Pocono Raceway. Alex Bowman drove for the No. 88 team July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt underwent further evaluation Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
“We have a break in the schedule after Watkins Glen, so the extra week of recovery time will certainly be a benefit,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Dale will be back when he’s ready, and we’re looking forward to that happening, but the priority continues to be his health and well-being. We’ll keep our focus on that and let the doctors guide us.”
In June of this year, Earnhardt crashed during the race at Michigan then again at Daytona on July 2. Monday he provided a weekly update on his condition via his podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. He said that doctors said his injury probably happened at Michigan and was no doubt aggravated at Daytona. He didn’t really feel the effects until after Daytona. He added that he wasn’t sure he really had a concussion.
“I’ve not had a concussion where you didn’t immediately feel effects,” Earnhardt said on the podcast Monday. “This is scary for me because it’s different. I’ve never had issues with my balance and eye issues.”
“I’m not a doctor and I have to lean on the professionals to help me learn about what my problem is. We went through every single test. We went through every possible issue. Blood tests, Lyme disease,” he said. “Basically you go down this elimination list, and knowing my history of concussions, they think it was the Michigan race. I felt good the next week.”
After several weeks of providing updates via social media and his podcast, Earnhardt will make his first public appearance Friday. The driver will be available to members of the media Friday at 12 p.m. ET in the Watkins Glen International media center.