Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss at least two more NASCAR Sprint Cup races, with Alex Bowman filling in this week at Michigan International Speedway and Jeff Gordon at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway next week, Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday.
Earnhardt, 41, has missed five races with concussion symptoms and hasn’t been cleared by doctors to return.
“We know how hard Dale is working to get back,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “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.”
Bowman, 23, who has four career Cup starts at Michigan, drove for Earnhardt at New Hampshire on July 17.
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Gordon, 45, who retired after last season, has driven Earnhardt’s No. 88 the past four races, but had a previous engagement that precluded him from driving at Michigan. Gordon’s seven career victories at Darlington lead all active drivers.
Earnhardt has had concussion symptoms since the June race at Michigan, where he crashed on the 61st lap. He said earlier this month there was no timetable for his return, although he hoped it would be soon.
“I want to race,” Earnhardt said during a visit to his team at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. “I miss the competition. I miss being here. I miss the people and as Rick likes to say, ‘We’ve got unfinished business.’ I’m not ready to stop racing. I’m not ready to quit. It’s a slower process. I wish it wasn’t. But I’m not going to go in the car until the doctors clear me.
“The doctors won’t let me race. This is not my decision, but it’s the right decision and I trust what my doctors are telling me. When they say I’m good to go, I believe them. If they say I’m healthy and I can race, I’m going to race.”
▪ The teams of Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman received written warnings from NASCAR for failing pre-race inspection at Bristol (Tenn.) last week. Joey Logano’s team received a written warning for failing pre-qualifying inspection.
▪ Ryan Southall, a crew member on Clint Bowyer’s team, was suspended indefinitely under NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.
▪ OneMain will remain a primary sponsor for JR Motorsports, despite announcing this summer that it is leaving the sport. JRM announced Wednesday that OneMain - a financial services company - signed a multi-year extension with Elliott Sadler’s Xfinity Series team. The company will be the primary sponsor for Sadler for 20 races in 2017.
▪ NASCAR announced this week that children under 12 will be admitted free to Xfinity and Truck series races beginning in 2017.