Following a concussion that was suffered on October 7 at the Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was recently approved to return to the track this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Earnhardt made the announcement on October 11 that he would miss two races in Charlotte and Kansas while he recovered from the concussion he suffered when he crashed his car in a race at Talladega, but recently received medical clearance to resume racing.
“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” said Jerry Petty, the doctor who gave Earnhardt clearance. “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.”
Before he was given clearance, Earnhardt completed a test session at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Georgia, where he raced 123 laps around the short track.
Petty consulted with Micky Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Central Sports Medicine Concussion Program, in reference to Earnhardt's concussion. The 38-year-old NASCAR superstar is one of 12 drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff during the last 10 races of the season, but since he's been out the past two weeks, he was eliminated from championship contention.
Regan Smith was chosen to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. while he was out with a concussion, finishing in seventh place in the race in Kansas.
The return of Earnhardt was a welcome sight for Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at the team's competition debrief on Tuesday morning with Hendrick Motorsports.
“It's great to have him back,” said Gordon, a four-time champion. “I Just continue to applaud him in the decision that he made, and I think he can come back now feeling very positive about how he handled the situation as well as be a positive impact on the rest of us, and how we'd hopefully handle that same situation.”
While Earnhardt is looking to make a successful return, Jimmie Johnson is eyeing his seventh Sprint Cup victory at Martinsville Speedway, already positioning himself in the second spot behind Brad Keselowski.