Hours after telling the media that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to race at Martinsville Speedway next week, team owner Rick Hendrick had to clarify that his driver has in fact not been cleared yet.
Earnhardt was pulled from the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet prior to the race at Charlotte as he recovers from the lingering effects of a concussion suffered during a crash at Talladega. According to Earnhardt the concussion had been lingering since an incident during a test at Kansas a prior to Talladega. Regan Smith was tapped to drive the car in Earnhardt’s absence.
Sunday prior to the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Hendrick told the media that Earnhardt had been cleared to race at Martinsville.
“He’s been cleared to race at Martinsville, so we’re excited to get him back,” Hendrick said.
“He came through with flying colors. Everything is great,” he added. “He can’t wait to get back in the car. He’s really anxious — and we’re anxious to get him back. So, next week he’s been cleared to race Martinsville. So we’re excited, excited to get him back.”
Mr. Hendrick’s comments seemed premature however, as during the race he had to clarify his earlier comments and that Earnhardt has not yet been medically cleared.
“I want to apologize to all you guys (the media). I gave you a little bad information out on pit road today. I’ve been out here at the dealerships and I did talk to the doctor (Dr. Jerry Petty, neurosurgeon) with Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and he said everything looked good and everything was fine,” Hendrick said. “However, I didn’t know until (HMS PR director) Jesse (Essex) informed me that I had gotten ahead of myself and that there is a closed test Monday that Dr. Petty will attend. Dale will be back in the car (for that test).”
Hendrick added that Tuesday there will be an impact test in Dr. Petty’s office.
“He’ll make the decision with a final test on Tuesday,” Hendrick said. “So, we don’t foresee any problems but I didn’t read my emails this morning and I kind of got ahead of myself.”
“I talked to the doctor myself and everything went good in Pittsburg (PA, tested Tuesday Oct. 16th) and Dr. Petty felt real good about it,” he added.” And I did know that they were going to shake down a car, but I didn’t know that the doctor was going, and that he would actually be evaluating him Tuesday (two separate tests/evaluations). I apologize for that. The test (next) Tuesday is in his (Dr. Petty’s) office. The test Monday is in the (race) car.”
Hendrick said he fully expects Earnhardt back in the No. 88 next Sunday.
“I will be shocked if he’s not in the car,” Hendrick said. “Everything looks good. His attitude and the way he feels; he’s had no headaches since Thursday or Friday of Charlotte; and the tests have gone real well. I think Dr. Petty is just being super-cautious and I applaud him for that. I think the sequence is that he (Dr. Petty) will be with him at the test Monday; they will evaluate him in his office Tuesday, and then he will notify NASCAR if he’s okay. Maybe I just heard what I wanted to hear when I talked to (Dr.) Petty because everything in Pittsburg was good.”
BREAKING NEWS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to race starting this week at Martinsville
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