Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because of “concussion-like symptoms.”
Alex Bowman will replace Earnhardt in the No. 88 for the New Hampshire 301. Bowman drives for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.
Earnhardt said in a statement released by Hendrick that he was not feeling well before last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway.
“I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt said. “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.
“I’m disappointed about missing New Hampshire this weekend. I’m looking forward to treatment with the goal of getting back in the race car when the doctors say I’m ready.”
Earnhardt’s absence from the No. 88 car comes with eight races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Earnhardt is winless this season and 13th in the points standings, 32 points above the cut off spot of 16th. While a NASCAR waiver could be likely for Earnhardt — series officials have granted waivers to Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart so they could remain eligible for the Chase despite missing races — he might need to win before the Chase begins in September to make the playoffs. That will depend on how many races Earnhardt misses.
“I’m proud of Dale for standing up,” said car owner Rick Hendrick in a press release. “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 (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team, and we know they’ll do a great job.”
This will be the second time Earnhardt has missed action due to what is believed to be symptoms related to a concussion. The 13-time most popular driver was involved in a crash in a tire test at Kansas Speedway on Aug. 29, 2012. Earnhardt admitted to racing the next six weeks with concussion symptoms.
On Oct. 7, Earnhardt was involved in a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway involving 25 cars. He would miss the next two races at Charlotte and Kansas.
In March, Earnhardt announced he was pledging his brain to CTE research.
For Bowman, it will be his first Sprint Cup race of the season. Bowman competed in the series for BK Racing in 2014 and Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2015. TBR replaced Bowman with Regan Smith just before the start of this season.