Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss races at Michigan, Darlington

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared to drive in either Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, nor a week later at the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday afternoon.

That means that a minimum Earnhardt will miss at least seven races. And there is still no timetable for his return. 

Earnhardt has not raced since July 9 at Kentucky, and has been undergoing extensive rehabilitation for concussion-like symptoms that Earnhardt believes he suffered in the first Michigan race on June 12.

Should Dale Earnhardt Jr. sit out the rest of the season?

“We know how hard Dale is working to get back,” said Hendrick Motorsports Rick Hendrick in a statement. “He’s following what the doctors are saying, to the letter, and doing exactly what he needs to do. Everyone wants to see him in a race car, but his health is first and foremost. We’re behind him.”

When Earnhardt was sidelined, his place was taken first by Alex Bowman at New Hampshire and then by Jeff Gordon at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Bristol.

On Sunday, Gordon said he would be unable to drive at Michigan and Hendrick officials said if Earnhardt was not ready to return, Bowman would go back in the car. 

Hendrick officials confirmed that Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Michigan and Gordon will be back in the cockpit at Darlington the following week. 

It’s ben a long recovery process or Earnhardt and it is not over yet. 

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“I think my doctors have a good understanding of my history and what I’ve been through,” said when he spoke with reporters at Watkins Glen on Aug. 5. “… Our intentions are to get cleared and get back to racing and we’re just taking it one evaluation at a time. It’s frustrating to have to do it that way, but that’s the process.”

In 18 starts this year, Earnhardt has four runner-up finishes, five top fives and six top 10s.

For his career, the third-generation NASCAR star has 26 victories, 148 top fives and 252 top 10s. Earnhardt’s top points finish came in 2003, when he drove for his late father’s Dale Earnhardt Inc. team. Earnhardt Jr. finished third in points in 2003 and won a career-high six races the following season.

Earnhardt has two Daytona 500 victories to his credit and was voted as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for a 13th consecutive time in 2015.