Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss at least the next two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, respectively, due to lingering concussion-like symptoms, Hendrick Motorsports announced on Wednesday morning. The driver of the No. 88 HMS Chevrolet missed last weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway due to this same issue (was replaced by Alex Boman), and also missed two back-to-back Chase races late in the 2012 season due to a concussion as well.
Until Earnhardt Jr. is cleared by neurological specialists to return, the No. 88 car will be piloted by Jeff Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion who recently retired at the end of the 2015 season. He spent the better part of two decades behind the wheel of the No. 24 car, now driven by Chase Elliott.
Gordon is the all-time winningest driver at IMS and Pocono, with his most recent victory at the Brickyard coming back in 2014 for his fifth career win at the venue, and his sixth career victory at the Tricky Triangle coming back in 2012. He also has accumulated a whopping 93 wins in 797 starts. Not a bad “replacement” driver, if you ask me.
On Tuesday, Earnhardt Jr. was evaluated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, according to a team release. He also revealed, via the Dale Jr. Download podcast on Dirty Mo Radio, that he had been struggling with nausea and balance, adding that there was “no way” he could’ve competed last weekend at NHMS.
Team owner Rick Hendrick voiced his support for the sport’s most popular driver via a team release.
“Our focus is giving Dale all the time he needs to recover. There’s nothing we want more than to see him back in the race car,” Hendrick said. “But we’ll continue to listen to the doctors and follow their lead. What’s best for Dale is what’s best for Hendrick Motorsports and everyone involved with the team. We’re all proud of him and looking forward to having him racing soon.”
There is currently no firm timetable for Earnhardt Jr.’s return to racing.
After sitting out last weekend, he currently sits 16th in the Chase standings, the final transfer spot. After sitting out the next two races, his only hope to qualify for the playoffs and pursue his first career championship will be to win a race and remain in the top 30 in the standings.
Be sure to keep an eye out for this week’s episode of Victory Lane and a complete preview for this weekend’s Brickyard 400. Also, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Eldora Speedway for tonight’s Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby. When souped up pickup trucks race on dirt, it’s bound to be a good show.