Dale Earnhardt Jr. OK to race

Updated: October 24, 2012, 12:31 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR's most popular driver was cleared medically to return on Tuesday after missing the past two races at Charlotte and Kansas with symptoms of a concussion.

Earnhardt received clearance by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty after an evaluation at Petty's Charlotte office, which followed a 123-lap test on Monday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia with Dr. Petty present.

"Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,'' Petty said in a team release. "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.''

Earnhardt was parked on Oct. 11 after headaches persisted following a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway five days earlier. It was the second time in six weeks he had suffered symptoms of a concussion. The first was after an Aug. 29 test at Kansas.

Regan Smith replaced Earnhardt, finishing 38th at Charlotte with a blown engine and seventh on Sunday at Kansas.

Earnhardt's championship hopes were all but done after the Talladega wreck that dropped him to 11th in points, 51 behind leader Brad Keselowski. He now trails by 122.

Earnhardt will return to a Martinsville track where he finished third in the spring and has four straight finishes of seventh or better. Crew chief Steve Letarte wrote Monday on Twitter, "Back in Concord [N.C.] after a great day of testing with Dale Jr. Looks great and ran some awesome laps.''

While out, Earnhardt went to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He met with Dr. Michael Collins, the executive director of the concussion program that helped developed the ImPACT baseline test used in the IndyCar series and other contact sports.

NASCAR officials are reviewing with its medical team all aspects of issues involving concussions, including baseline testing that IndyCar uses as part of its preseason testing.

The baseline test taken before injury gives doctors an idea of what functions might have suffered from a head injury. The test in post-injury care helps experts manage the injury more accurately.

According to Kelley Earnhardt Miller, her brother has spent a lot of time resting per doctor orders but was allowed to watch some television and play some video games.

"This has definitely been an eye opening experience and one that I hope we don't revisit in his career,'' Earnhardt Miller, wrote last week in a post on JRNation.com.

Earnhardt will address the media on Friday at Martinsville.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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