(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Approved to Race in 2017

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is back.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Earnhardt has been cleared to return to racing.  The OK came after Earnhardt participated in a private test session on Wednesday at Darlington Raceway that was attended by Charlotte area neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty and representatives of NASCAR.

Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program, officially cleared Earnhardt to return to racing after consulting with Dr. Petty.

Earnhardt Jr. said he’s back to normal and is thrilled to be able to get back to doing what he loves.

“I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back,” Earnhardt said in a press release.  “I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017.

“Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a car on the track. I’ll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it’s time to go to Daytona, I’ll be ready.”

Rick Hendrick made note of Earnhardt’s ethic over the past few months.

“Dale deserves so much credit,” Hendrick said.  “I’m proud of him for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. He’s worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others. It’s great news as we go into the off-season, and we can’t wait to see him back on the racetrack at Daytona.”

Earnhardt will get back into his No. 88 in an official session for the first time on Feb. 18, 2017.  Coverage of that session will be aired live on FOX Sports 1.

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Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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  1. Avatar

    I’m as happy as the next guy that Lil E is healthy enough to attempt a coming back.
    BUT …I am very disappointed Nascar decided to rewrite the rule book (regarding approving Lil E’s multiple test sessions) to empower their Chevy poser-child. UNREAL! …but I have come to expect partiality from this breed motorsport monopolizers.
    Big surprise aye? And how about IMSA putting the screws to Multimatic’s Championship drivers (Billy Johnson & Scott Maxwell) with less than 30 days left to the first sessions of ’17 [Jan 6, CTSCC at Daytona)! WTH!???! I can certainty understand why IMSA would change the driver’s ratings system changed, but give that a YEAR to normalize & put it into effect for ’18 for crying out loud! It is more than disappointing news to get with LESS than a month to secure a new seat! Again, UNREAL!
    Frances LOVE putting the screws to Fords!

  2. Avatar

    NASCAR desperately needs JR to win races and contend in the Chase to move this sport forward

  3. Avatar

    Brian’s got his Christmas wish. More money!