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Earnhardt Jr. To Skip Next Two Races Because Of Concussion

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 11 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. limps his car back to the pits after being caught up in the last-lap wreck at Talladega last week. It was revealed Thursday that Earnhardt sustained a concussion in the wreck and will not drive in the next two races. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not drive this upcoming weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, nor next weekend at Kansas Speedway, because of a head injury first suffered during a wreck during a tire test at Kansas in late August.

It was reported by Hendrick Motorsports early on Thursday morning that the concussion was sustained during a multi-car wreck at Talladega on Sunday. But at a press conference later, the Hendrick driver said he first noticed symptoms after the Kansas wreck.

–Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, was diagnosed Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte.

Regan Smith will be the team’’s substitute driver at Charlotte and Kansas.

Earnhardt was having his best season since joining Hendrick. He won at Michigan International Speedway in June and easily made the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff.

Earnhardt led the point standings for two weeks during the summer. He was sitting seventh in points and still in contention for the championship when he was involved in the last-lap wreck at Talladega.

After the wreck, Earnhardt talked to reporters. As he did so, he was rubbing his head and looking ill. Earnhardt ripped into restrictor plate racing repeatedly during his presser. He said that somebody was going to get seriously injured in one of the big wrecks that racing at Talladega and Daytona tend to regularly produce.

He said that racing at plate tracks was a concession given to “bloodthirsty” fan elements and that give the choice, he would never race in a plate race again.

Hendrick will hold a press conference on Thursday morning at the CMS media center. (RacinToday.com senior writer Deb Williams will be at the presser and will report the latest information.)

After his wreck at Talladega, Earnhardt was able to drive his car back to the garages. Because he was able to do that, he was not required to take a trip to the infield medical center.

The concussion is not the first for Earnhardt, generally regarded as NASCAR’s most popular driver. He also sustained a concussion after a wreck at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. in April of 2002.

Earnhardt later admitted that he hid the effects of that crash from his team and from NASCAR officials. He would later say that it was because of that injury that he struggled in the early part of that season. Earnhardt said it took him until July of that season to stop feeling the effects of the injury.

The Auto Club incident played a part in NASCAR tightening its policy on head injuries. Doctors at infield care centers now can require drivers to undergo CT scans or MRIs if they suspected a concussion. Clearance to race after suffering a concussion is not given until after a driver obtains a medical release.

(This story will be updated shortly)

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 11 2012
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