NASCAR Cup: Dale Jr. to miss at least two more races
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss at least two more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races — the Aug. 28Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and the Sept. 4 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Earnhardt continues to be sidelined by symptoms of a concussion that doctors believe he sustained in a crash at Michigan in June. The MIS and DR races will be the sixth and seventh-straight races missed by Earnhardt.
“We know how hard Dale is working to get back,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. “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.”
Earnhardt was most recently evaluated Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
As previously reported, Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Earnhardt’s abscence at Michigan. Jeff Gordon will return to the driver’s seat for Darlington. Gordon is unavailable for the the full weekend of on-track activity at Michigan because of a prior commitment. HMS opted to go with Bowman, because Bowman is available for all practices and qualifying, in addition to the race, at Michigan. Gordon is expected to be at the track Sunday for the race.
Bowman drove the car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 17, the first race missed by Earnhardt. He finished 28th after being involved in an on-track incident. Bowman also has raced a limited schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season in a car co-owned by Earnhardt.
Bowman raced full-time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 and 2015 and was the 2014 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. He lost his Cup deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing during the 2015-16 offseason when that team opted to replace him with Regan Smith. The NHMS race in which he subbed for Earnhardt has been the only Sprint Cup race, to date, this season for Bowman.
Gordon came out of retirement to fill-in for Earnhardt for races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., and continued in the car for the next two races at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and the most recent race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway. His best finish in the car, so far, was an 11th-place finish Sunday at Bristol.