Earnhardt Jr. out at New Hampshire due to Concussion-Like Symptoms

Coming off a 13th place finish in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway last weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat 14th in the points standings, holding onto a Chase spot narrowly. However, without a win, and Hendrick Motorsports in a bit of a slump, his Chase hopes were on the decline. Now, they take an even bigger hit – one nobody saw coming.

On Thursday afternoon, around 5:45 p.m. ET, it was announced that Earnhardt Jr. will not compete in this weekend’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet due to concussion like symptoms. The announcement came via twitter on the Hendrick Motorsports verified account.

Earnhardt Jr., via a statement, said that doctors advised him to take this week off and reevaluate early next week.

“I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt Jr. said in the statement. “I saw a family doctor and was given medication for allergies and a sinus infection. When that didn’t help, I decided to dig a little deeper. Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out [until further notice].”

The team said there is currently no timetable for his return. After NHMS, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the famed Brickyard 400.

Team owner, Rick Hendrick, was completely supportive of his driver following the announcement.

“I’m proud of Dale for standing up. The number-one priority is his health, so we’re going to give him all the time he needs,” Hendrick said in a press release. “We completely support the decision by the doctors and will be ready to go win races when he’s 100 percent. In the meantime, we have full confidence in [crew chief] Greg [Ives] and the team, and we know they’ll do a great job.”

Alex Bowman, part-time driver of the No. 88 XFINITY Series car for JR Motorsports, Earnhardt Jr.’s team, will pilot the No. 88 this weekend.

Earnhardt Jr. also has a history of concussions. In 2012, he missed two straight Chase races due to concussion like symptoms. Earlier this year, he also said he will be donating his brain upon death to science to conduct research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

But just because the sport’s most popular driver won’t be participating this weekend doesn’t mean the show will stop. As they say, the show must go on, and go on it shall. Sunday afternoon, just past 1:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN will televise the New Hampshire 301. Kyle Busch is the defending winner of this race, with the hottest driver in NASCAR, Brad Keselowski, finishing in second place last season. Busch’s teammate, Matt Kenseth, won the Chase race after Kevin Harvick dominated the entire race, but ran out of fuel coming to the white flag.

Guys who are right on the Chase bubble, like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne, and Ryan Newman need to have solid weekends in order to stay alive in the playoff picture.

On the flip side, guys like Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger, and Austin Dillon can move their way into the playoffs with a win. Easier said than done, though.

Another storyline to watch will be how Tony Stewart approaches the race. Now that he has the win, and is solidly into the top 30 in points following his fifth place finish at Kentucky, I expect the No. 14 to play it conservative and not make a ton of noise on Sunday.

On the other hand, the aforementioned Hendrick Motorsports has been in a bit of a tailspin downward. They haven’t finished inside the top ten in two weeks, haven’t led a lap in three races and have just been lacking in speed, handling, motivation, and results. Heck, the six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, hasn’t finished three of his last five races due to crashing. However, this weekend, I expect HMS to contend. Watch out for that No. 48 and No. 24.

My pick to win the race, though, is Kenseth in the No. 20. Joe Gibbs Racing has also been struggling a little bit, with Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing being the class of the field for the past few weeks. I think Kenseth gets back on track with his second win of the season, third at NHMS in his career, and into victory lane. Enjoy the races everybody, and be sure to check out the latest episode of Victory Lane!