Concussion dashes Jr.’s ‘Chase’ hopes
CONCORD, N.C.—Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss the next two races with a concussion, ending the championship chances of NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Hendrick Motorsports said today that Earnhardt will sit out Charlotte and Kansas, and Regan Smith will replace him in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Earnhardt, team owner Rick Hendrick, and crew chief Steve Letarte were scheduled to discuss his injury today at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt was injured in a 25-car last-lap accident Sunday at Talladega.
Because he was able to drive his car away from the accident (teammate Jimmie Johnson even caught a lift on the window back to the garage), Earnhardt was not required to go to the care centre for an examination at the time.
Immediately after the race, he called restrictor-plate racing “bloodthirsty” and said he no longer had any desire to compete at Daytona and Talladega.
The wreck Sunday was at least the second hard hit Earnhardt has had this season. He struck the wall extremely hard during an Aug. 29 Goodyear test at Kansas when his right front tire failed.
It’s not clear if Earnhardt sought a medical evaluation after that accident, which driver Brad Keselowski tweeted about moments after the hit.
Earnhardt this season snapped his 143-race winless streak dating back to 2008, and many believed he was in the best position in years to finally win his first Sprint Cup Series championship.
But he had a mediocre start to the Chase for the Sprint Cup and left Talladega ranked 11th in the field.
By sitting out the next two races, he’ll most certainly finish last in the 12-driver “Chase” race.
Earnhardt also will end his streak of 461-consecutive starts, which is the fifth-longest active streak in the Sprint Cup Series.