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“Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition and will be back in the seat of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Per NASCAR policy, NASCAR’s medical liaison office received official notification of his clearance to resume racing late this morning. Earnhardt announced Oct. 11 that he would miss two races (Charlotte and Kansas) while he was recovering from a concussion.”
It looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to the seat of his No. 88 seat for Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with just four races to go in the 2012 season after being sidelined for a couple of races because of a concussion sustained earlier this month at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It was is second concussion in six weeks.
Would it really be beneficial to return now, or would Earnhardt be better off by taking the rest of the season off? I’m not questioning whether or not he’s truly healed. After all, he’s been cleared by a doctor who has worked with NASCAR drivers for years and is respected by the entire NASCAR community.
I just can’t help but think that it may do him some good to take a little extra time off. He has suffered several concussions over the years. And really, what good would coming back this late in the game do?
Yes, there are sponsor obligations, but Earnhardt is, undoubtedly, the most popular driver in the sport, so I’m sure his sponsors would be willing to work with him and Hendrick Motorsports to remain on the hood of the No. 88. Of course, there is that itch drivers have to be in the car. You know, the one that keeps them from feeling right about someone else driving their cars.
But who would benefit from getting back into the car with four races left in the 2012 season, not to mention the Chase for the Sprint Cup? After falling to 11th in points and missing a couple of races, Earnhardt is destined to finish 12th, getting back in the car or not. He’s too many points behind to move back up the ladder, and because of the points differential between those in the Chase and those outside of it, it’s not like he’s going to lose more positions.
Then there’s the argument of preparing for 2013. That one doesn’t fly right now. The Sprint Cup Series is going to new cars next year. So in four more races, it’s not going to matter what was learned about the current car at such-and-such track.
Maybe Earnhardt and those close to him, i.e. his team, should just leave Regan Smith in the ca r for the remainder of 2012 and start afresh with Earnhardt in 2013. Who would it hurt to give the guy and little extra time to heal?
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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