What's being said about it?
We asked our experts to give us their comments on the situation and invite our readers to contribute in the Conversation section of this story and to hit us up on Twitter with your thoughts using the hashtag #ESPNYourTurn.
If you recall, Earnhardt was less than pleased after getting caught up in a 25-car pileup on the last lap, sending him tumbling down the Chase standings. Junior called the incident "ridiculous" and "bloodthirsty" and said that kind of plate racing will damage the sport in the long run.
Now he's out the next two races, and Regan Smith is in the No. 88 for Hendrick Motorsports.
So what say you, NASCAR Nation?
Now have at it
Terry Blount, ESPN.com: If anything can cause NASCAR officials to seriously look at changes to the danger at Talladega, an injury to Dale Earnhardt Jr. will do it. Earnhardt said his first concussion this season came in August in a testing accident at Kansas, but when the sport's most popular driver has to leave the Chase because of another crazy crash at Talladega, the problem of the last-lap madness at the restrictor-plate races becomes a major issue. This also will call into question how NASCAR handles concussions, what tests are needed after an accident and whether any driver should compete if tests reveal he or she has a concussion. And this situation will bring thoughts from some fans about drivers getting a mulligan in the Chase, having one event not count (Junior is out at least two races) in case of injury.
Ed Hinton, ESPN.com: His Chase was virtually over anyway, so he did the right thing, the smart thing. There may be even more interest in the 88 car these next two races than if he were in it. Both Junior Nation and its opposite numbers will be keenly focused on hard-luck, clearly talented Regan Smith to see how he'll do as the replacement. If Smith does well, he'll draw a lot of attention to his own search for a ride, and the conversation will inevitably turn to comparison of the two drivers in Hendrick Motorsports equipment. So Earnhardt's trouble is a huge break for Smith.
Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine: Concussions are a murky business. At ESPN The Magazine we've done multiple series on the topic, and I still can't wrap my brain around it all. Neither can the victims. But we shouldn't be embarrassed, because even the doctors admit they struggle with it. On Thursday doctors Jerry Petty and Vinay Deshmukh discussed the topic in language that was more vague scientific theory than solid medical information. "As much as we know," Deshmukh said, "there is just as much that we are still learning." The uncertainty that envelops our gray matter is scary. That's the wariness that was on Earnhardt's face, what caused him to finally ditch the "I pushed through it" mentality of 2002 and August of this year. That's why he's doing what every racer dreads most: handing over his ride. The days of playing on with your eyelids duct-taped open or with an aspirin taped to your broken leg are gone. To me, a willingness to accept that fact and take the right, difficult action to protect your body and mind takes a far greater measure of bravery.
David Newton, ESPN.com: Kudos to Earnhardt for having the courage to step forward and admit he was suffering symptoms of a concussion in the middle of the Chase. Shame on him for not stepping forward when he first had the symptoms six weeks ago after a hard crash at Kansas. What if he endangered the lives of others for pressing forward, for handling the situation initially on his own? What if he endangered his long-term health? This was a huge moment in NASCAR. It magnifies a dilemma that has been going on for a long time. Drivers don't want to give up their seats because the penalty for missing a race, much less two, has such huge implications on where they finish in points and in the championship hunt. Hopefully, this will give drivers courage in the future to step forward, but I am skeptical.
The best from Twitter (#ESPNYourTurn)
— Rashael (@RJalias) October 11, 2012
— Just Melissa (@Melissa_in_NC) October 11, 2012
— AJadedLady (@AJadedLady) October 11, 2012
The best from ESPN Conversations
• 1mJustSayin -- I just hope NASCAR, in typical fashion, doesn't discard Junior's comments after the race as being related to the injury. He was spot on!
• sadistic_pancake -- This is great. ... now Ricky Bobby is gonna win the chase. I think it's a setup.
• martymcfly1885 -- Feel sorry for him, but sometimes we need to protect athletes from themselves.
• garysgo -- Amazing how many armchair doctors there are here. They don't have a clue what a concussion really is or how a concussion is sustained. But the stupid comments keep on coming. Give credit where credit is due. Erring on the side of caution and safety is a good quality.NFL-WAKE UP and learn.
• dmusch5150 -- They shouldn't have this as part of the chase. Put a road course in at least the drivers have some control.
• pace38 -- As much excitement as that finish was, this dampens it. For the idiots that dont think it was that bad of a hit, when you get hit by a car in the area that surrounds your head, in which the car is going 150 + mph, your bound to get hurt. Im surprised more guys didnt get injured as well.
• pace38 -- As a Junior hater on the track I hate to see this happen, concussions are no joke. Just one of the great things about Nascar is whether you hate or love a driver I think we agree they need to be on the track for us to have an opinion.
I hope he never wins a championship but do hope he recovers to enjoy a longer career and more importantly a safe and happy retirement.. get better Jr
• More on ESPN Conversations.