Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday that doctors have not cleared Dale Earnhardt Jr. to compete in this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway and the Sept. 4 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
“We know how hard Dale is working to get back,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, 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.”
Earnhardt last competed July 9 at Kentucky Speedway. He’s missed the last five races since experiencing symptoms from a concussion that doctors determined he suffered in a June 12 crash at Michigan International Speedway.
Earnhardt underwent further evaluation Wednesday at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
Bowman drove the No. 88 car at New Hampshire in the first race Earnhardt missed. Jeff Gordon drove Earnhardt’s car the following races at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Bristol. Gordon finished 11th last weekend at Bristol, his best finish in the No. 88. Gordon is unable to drive for Earnhardt at Michigan because of a prior commitment.
Earnhardt has shared many details via social media about his recovery and some of the physical and mental exercises he does.
During an interview Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, discussed the uncertainty of concussions and her brother’s recovery.
“He gets frustrated because the improvement is not as great as he wants it to be, as quick as he wants it to be,’’ said Earnhardt Miller, who was with her brother when he visited specialists Wednesday.
“Everything that you read about concussions, and as you talk to the doctors, you understand that this can be a process. You hear stories of a couple of weeks to several months, to many months and sometimes as long as a year (before recovery). I’ve talked to people out and about in my circle of friends. I was just in a meeting yesterday with a financial advisor and he said ‘I dealt with stuff for a whole year.’
“We don’t know what the time frame is. We want him to be healthy. He is wanting to be very forthright about it, wanting to be very honest. He wants everyone to understand so they don’t have to speculate what’s going on and he can just put it out there. When he feels better, he wants to feel 100 percent better before he gets in the race car and so do his doctors.’’
Earnhardt Miller said there’s little she can do but offer her brother support.
“It’s a helpless feeling to share that frustration with him that things aren’t happening as quick,’’ she said. “We take our bodies for granted. Our bodies are such a complex machine, and we don’t understand what’s going on to make us tick everyday. I think the frustrating thing for him is that there is no specific fix. It’s exercises and time.
“It’s not like you can just pop a pill or you can go get this surgery or something like that to just fix this and be better. It’s a process and that’s a little bit frustrating on his part. We’re here to help him. Sometimes we might not have the right words for him, but we’re just like today right alongside him at this appointment trying to be as supportive as we can.’’
Earnhardt said earlier this month at Watkins Glen International that he is focused on returning to the car as soon as possible.
“I’m not ready to stop racing,’’ he said Aug. 5. “I’m not ready to quit. It’s a slower process. I wish it wasn’t. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’m not going to go into the car until the doctors clear me. The is not my decision. I trust what my doctors are telling me. When they say I’m good to go I believe them.’’