It has been recently reported that Dale Earnhardt Jr will not return to the Sprint Cup series this year. He is currently recovering from concussion symptoms he likely received from a wreck on June 12th at Michigan International Speedway. Earnhardt Jr has missed the past six races due to his symptoms.
“I wish I could return to the No. 88 team this season” Earnhardt, who has not been medically cleared to compete, said in a statement. “To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, but I know this is the right thing for my long-term health and career. I’m 100 percent focused on my recovery, and I will continue to follow everything the doctors tell me. They’re seeing good progress in my test results, and I’m feeling that progress physically. I plan to be healthy and ready to compete at Daytona in February. I’m working toward that. The support from both inside and outside the race team has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so encouraging and positive, from my teammates and sponsors to my family, friends and fans. It’s motivating and humbling at the same time.”
Jeff Gordon, who has filled in for Earnhardt Jr, and is doing so again this weekend at Darlington, and Alex Bowman will continue to be the ones who fill in for Jr according to Hendricks Motorsports.
“I know how hard Dale has worked and how frustrating this is for him” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “He wants to be back, and we want him back, but we want it to be for the long haul. We’ve had incredible support from everyone involved with the team, including all of our sponsors. They’ve put Dale’s health first every step of the way.”
Missing the rest of the season won’t hurt Earnhardt Jr much as he likely would not have made the Chase for the Sprint Cup unless he came back next week and won at Richmond.
NASCAR will also be changing car specifications for 2017, meaning the cars will run differently in 2017 than the remainder of the season. Speaking at Watkins Glen on August 5th, Dale Jr stressed that he wanted to continue racing.
“As soon as I can get healthy and get confident in how I feel and feel like I can drive a car and be great driving it, then I want to drive” said Earnhardt, who missed two races in 2012 after suffering two concussions in six weeks.
“I want to race. I miss the competition. I miss being here. I miss the people and, as Rick likes to say, ‘We’ve got unfinished business.’ I’m not ready to stop racing. I’m not ready to quit. It’s a slower process. I wish it wasn’t.”
Jeff Gordon will be behind the wheel this Sunday as well at the races at Richmond, Dover, and Martinsville. Bowman will be behind the wheel for the races at Chicagoland, New Hampshire, Charlotte, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix, and the last race of the season, Homestead.
Dale Jr, who turns 42 in October, has 26 victories, including two at the Daytona 500. He has had 595 career Sprint Cup starts, and has finished in the top 10 in 42% of his races.
The son of seven-time Sprint Cup champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Jr has never won a Cup title, with a best finish in the season standings of third in 2003.