As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 19th race of the season, one driver will be noticeably absent.
After suffering concussion-like symptoms over the weekend at Kentucky Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared by the doctors to race this weekend and will miss a race for the first time since 2012 (also for a concussion). Alex Bowman – who competes for Earnhardt’s XFINITY Series team, JR Motorsports – will drive in Earnhardt’s place this weekend.
“I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky (Speedway) and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “I saw a family doctor and was given medication for allergies and a sinus infection. When that didn’t help, I decided to dig a little deeper. Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out.”
Hendrick Motorsports did not issue a timetable of when Earnhardt might return to competition.
Earnhardt has not been able to win a race this season, but has five top-five finishes and six top 10s and was well on his way to earning a Chase berth on points. He is currently 14th in points with a 32-point advantage over the Chase cutoff point in 17th (Trevor Bayne currently holds that position).
Bowman has 71 career Sprint Cup Series starts under his belt, but has not yet competed in the series in 2016. His best career finish was a 13th-place run at Daytona International Speedway in 2014. The 23-year-old has made four starts in the XFINITY Series this season for JR Motorsports and finished in the top 10 in all four races.
“I’m proud of Dale for standing up,” said Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick. “The number-one priority is his health, so we’re going to give him all the time he needs. We completely support the decision by the doctors and will be ready to go win races when he’s 100 percent. In the meantime, we have full confidence in Greg (Ives) and the team, and we know they’ll do a great job.”
There will be a press conference tomorrow morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 9:30AM ET with general manager Doug Duchardt, No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives, and Bowman.
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