CHARLOTTE — NASCAR’s most popular driver will return to the race track this weekend at Martinsville, Va.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been sidelined two weeks suffering lingering effects from a pair of concussions, has been medically cleared for competition.
Since being diagnosed with a concussion following the Oct. 7 race at Talladega, Ala. – his second concussion within roughly six weeks – Earnhardt has participated in a rehabilitation program directed by Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty.
Petty also consulted with Dr. Micky Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
“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.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday that Earnhardt had to complete an on-track test to doctors’ satisfaction.
He took part in the test Monday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., where he ran 123 laps on the half-mile track.
Earnhardt had a final neurological evaluation Tuesday morning in Charlotte.
He said he first felt symptoms nearly seven weeks ago after a hard wreck at Kansas Speedway during a tire test. He was seen by medical staff at the track but did not go into detail about his symptoms.
The injury snapped Earnhardt’s streak of 461 consecutive starts and took him out of the series title hunt.