Charlotte, NC, United States (4E Sports) – Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, has been medically cleared to return this weekend at Martinsville Speedway after missing past two races at Charlotte and Kansas with symptoms of a concussion.
Dr. Jerry Petty gave Earnhardt clearance after a thorough evaluation, which followed a 123-lap test Monday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia with the popular Charlotte neurosurgeon present.
“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” Petty said.”He hasn’t had a headache since Oct. 12 and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time. I have informed NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports that he is medically cleared for all NASCAR-related activity.”
Earnhardt was sidelined Oct. 11 after headaches persisted following a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway five days earlier. It was the second time in six weeks he had suffered symptoms of a concussion, the first happening after an Aug. 29 test at Kansas.
Regan Smith replaced Earnhardt, finishing 38th at Charlotte with a blown engine and seventh on Sunday at Kansas.
However, Earnhardt’s championship hopes were all gone as he now trails leader Brad Keselowski by 122 points.
In the past, Earnhardt has raced well at Martinsville, finishing third in the spring and has four straight finishes of seventh or better.
“Back in Concord [N.C.] after a great day of testing with Dale Jr. Looks great and ran some awesome laps,” Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte posted on his Twitter account.
After Earnhardt’s concussion, NASCAR officials are now reviewing with its medical team all aspects of issues involving concussions, including baseline testing that IndyCar uses as part of its preseason testing.
The baseline test taken before injury gives doctors an idea of what functions might have suffered from a head injury. The test in post-injury care helps experts manage the injury more accurately.
According to Kelley Earnhardt Miller, her brother has spent a lot of time resting per doctor orders but was allowed to watch some television and play some video games.
“This has definitely been an eye opening experience and one that I hope we don’t revisit in his career,” Earnhardt Miller said.