Earlier this season, the weekend NASCAR was in New Hampshire, it was announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be sidelined because of concussion-like symptoms. He mentioned about major wrecks that happened at Michigan that possibly started the symptoms, but he continued to race afterwards.
However, symptoms worsened and both he and his doctors decided that stepping out of the car would be best, with the hopes that he would return later in the season.
Now, those hopes have ended.
With no on-track activity occurring on Friday at Darlington Raceway, the site of this weekend’s Southern 500, due to the impending hurricane, the biggest news came from outside the race track. Earnhardt Jr. announced that despite his symptoms and recovery getting better, it was not progressing to the point of returning yet. So, citing his health and his long-term career plans, Junior decided to step away from his duty as driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2016 season.
“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,” Junior said in a team release. “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.”
Originally thought to be suffering from a sinus infection or allergies, Earnhardt Jr. visited his doctor and that is what brought on the discovery.
For the last six races, Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon have substituted in driving the No. 88. Bowman drove in New Hampshire, then Gordon took over at Indianapolis, then drove again at Pocono and Watkins Glen. Bowman took over at Michigan due to a schedule conflict with Gordon, and then Gordon returned last weekend at Bristol.
Both Gordon and Bowman will share time in the No. 88 for the remaining 12 races, with Gordon running this weekend at Darlington.
“I know how hard Dale has worked and how frustrating this is for him,” owner Rick Hendrick said in the same release. “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.”
This is the second time Junior has been sidelined with a concussion due to an accident, however this is the longest he has been out of the car because of it.