CONCORD — NASCARs most popular driver will sit out at least the next two Sprint Cup Series races after suffering a second concussion within six weeks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.s neurosurgeon, Dr. Jerry Petty, notified him Wednesday he would not be cleared to race in Saturday nights Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I trust his opinion. Thats why I went to see him. Hes been a good friend of mine for a long time and has helped me through a lot of injuries before, Earnhardt said of Petty.
I believe when he tells me I dont need to be in the car and I need to take a couple weeks off that thats what I need to do.
Earnhardt said he first felt symptoms nearly six weeks ago after a hard wreck at Kansas Speedway during a tire test.
He was seen by medical staff at the track.
I decided to just try to push through and work through it. Id had concussions before and knew exactly kind of what I was dealing with, Earnhardt said.
When he had headaches this week following Sundays last-lap wreck at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, he decided to reach out to his sister, Kelley, and Petty.
Petty put Earnhardt through an impact test and MRI, both of which were clear. But because of Earnhardts lingering symptoms, Petty declined to clear him to race.
The one test, the one symptom that is more important than all the tests is headache, and as long as theres any headache, the brain is not healed, Petty said.
Until thats healed and had some time to rest and then you provoke it again and cant make it happen again, then you feel like youre on the road to recovery.
Team owner Rick Hendrick said he admired Earnhardt for speaking up this week about his health.
I think a lot of guys would try to play hurt, but when the doctor tells you if you get hit again like right away, it could be catastrophic, so I think this deal has worked out extremely well as it could, Hendrick said.
I mean, we were so happy (Wednesday) that the MRI was completely normal, no damage. We dont have a problem there.
Earnhardt already was going to have a difficult road to a championship he trails leader Brad Keselowski by 51 points with six races left the decision to get out of the car will end any 2012 titles hopes.
Because of the structure of the Chase, Earnhardt cannot finish lower than 12th in the standings. He is 11th after Talladega, 11 points ahead of Matt Kenseth.
Its frustrating. I really didnt get to make the decision. I left it in the hands of the docs, and Im going to do what they tell me to do, Earnhardt said. But its frustrating; I just enjoy driving cars week in and week out.
Regan Smith, who recently was released from Furniture Row Racing, will drive Earnhardts No. 88 Chevrolet at Charlotte and Oct. 21 at Kansas.
Earnhardt doesnt plan to be around the track during his hiatus.
I think that Id be more of a distraction to the team and their efforts in the race, he said.