NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. to return Sunday at Martinsville

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races with a concussion, will return for Sunday's race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, his Hendrick Motorsports team announced Tuesday.

The popular driver was cleared by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty after Earnhardt drove 123 laps in a Cup car during a test Monday at the half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.

"Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him" in various tests, Petty said in a statement. "He hasn't had a headache since Oct. 12, and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time."

Earnhardt, 38, was involved in a massive, multicar crash at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 7, which exacerbated a concussion he first suffered a few weeks earlier when his No. 88 Chevrolet crashed in a test session.

That prompted Petty not to clear Earnhardt for the next two races, at Charlotte and Kansas, for fear that another crash could worsen the driver's injury.

Earnhardt is among the 12 drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff during the last 10 races of the season, but his absence the last two weeks essentially eliminated him from championship contention.

Hendrick Motorsports tapped Regan Smith to replace Earnhardt, and Smith finished seventh in Sunday's race at Kansas.


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