KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It was a sheepish Rick Hendrick who visited the Kansas Speedway media center in the middle of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, backtracking on an earlier statement that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been cleared to race next weekend at Martinsville.
In fact, Earnhardt still has two hurdles to clear — a closed test at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia on Monday and a visit with neurologist Dr. Jerry Petty on Tuesday — before he can return. Earnhardt was held out of the No. 88 at Charlotte and Kansas while recovering from two recent concussions.
Before Sunday’s race, Hendrick told reporters that Earnhardt already had been cleared to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Hendrick said later that he had neglected to read his e-mails Sunday morning.
From what he’s heard from the doctors, however, Hendrick expressed confidence that Earnhardt will be cleared to race at the .526-mile short track.
“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 (Oct. 11-12); 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 Pittsburgh (where Earnhardt was tested recently) was good.”