Dale Earnhardt Jr., the most popular racer in NASCAR, received clearance to resume racing after a neurosurgeon determined he no longer displayed effects of a concussion suffered Oct. 6 at Talladega Super Speedway.
Dr. Jerry Petty gave “Junior” the go-ahead after an examination at his office in Charlotte. Prior to that, Earnhardt had a 123-lap test on Monday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia with Dr. Petty present.
“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” Petty said in a team release. “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.”
He will return to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Martinsville Speedway after missing the past two races at Charlotte and Kansas with symptoms of a concussion.
Earnhardt was parked on Oct. 11 after headaches persisted following a last-lap crash at Talladega Super Speedway five days earlier. It was the second time in six weeks he had suffered symptoms of a concussion. The first was 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.
Earnhardt’s championship hopes were all but done after the Talladega wreck that dropped him to 11th in points, 51 behind leader Brad Keselowski. He now trails by 122.
Earnhardt will return to a Martinsville track where he finished third in the spring and has four straight finishes of seventh or better. Crew chief Steve Letarte wrote Monday on Twitter, “Back in Concord [N.C.] after a great day of testing with Dale Jr. Looks great and ran some awesome laps.”
While out, Earnhardt went to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He met with Dr. Michael Collins, the executive director of the concussion program that helped developed the ImPACT baseline test used in the IndyCar series and other contact sports.
NASCAR officials are reviewing with its medical team all aspects of issues involving concussions, including baseline testing that IndyCar uses as part of its preseason testing.