Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss this Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because of “concussion-like symptoms,” according to a team release from Hendrick Motorsports.
The announcement came on Twitter on Thursday evening at roughly 5:30 p.m. ET.
The team also stated that Alex Bowman would replace Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for this Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
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“I’m disappointed about missing New Hampshire this weekend. I’m looking forward to treatment with the goal of getting back in the race car when the doctors say I’m ready," Earnhardt Jr. said in a statement.
Missing even one race at this point in the season could severely damage Earnhardt’s chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. Although it seems certain that NASCAR will grant him some kind of injury waiver similar to the ones granted to Kyle Busch last season and Tony Stewart earlier this seaosn, in both of those cases Busch and Stewart ended up winning races.
Earnhardt currently sits 13th in the points standings and has yet to win a race this season. Rules state that you must win at least one race and/or be in the top 16 in points without a victory to qualify for the Chase. In the special case of Stewart, who missed the first eight races of this season with a back injury, NASCAR ruled the same as it did last year in the case of Busch — stating that the driver in question could participate in the Chase if he won at least one race and finished in the top 30 in points.
This is not the first time Earnhardt has had to miss a race because of a concussion-related injury. He also missed two races during the 2012 Chase after crashing during a practice session at Kansas Speedway, and then aggravating his injury in a wreck at Talladega shortly thereafter.
In that instance, Earnhardt took the two weeks off based on a recommendation from Dr. Jerry Petty, the same neurosurgeon who last week recommended that Camping World Truck Series driver John Wes Townley sit out at least one weekend because of concussion-like symptoms Townley was experiencing after a wreck at Gateway Motorsports Park recently.
“I’m proud of Dale for standing up,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “The number-one priority is his health, so we’re going to give him all the time he needs. We completely support the decision by the doctors and will be ready to go win races when he’s 100 percent. In the meantime, we have full confidence in (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team, and we know they’ll do a great job.”