Fans of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. will surely be ecstatic following the news that he has been cleared to race in 2017, after missing the last 18 races of the previous season due to a concussion. The 42-year-old has been cleared by medical professionals to race in the Daytona 500, the season opener of which will take place on February 26.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the decision to clear the racecar legend was made by the medical director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program Dr. Mickey Collins, who alongside Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, concluded that Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed his test session with flying colors. The test took place at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway.
According to Racer, Collins gave a statement in which he gushed over how hardworking the racecar driver was regarding his desperation to return to the tracks, willing to do whatever it took to become healthy enough to continue his passion. He did everything that was asked of him by medical professionals throughout his treatment, with doctors feeling 100 percent sure that he is ready to return to a professional level of car racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s session at Darlington, reveals FOX Sports, took almost five hours. His 185 laps were closely monitored by Greg Ives, crew chief of Hendrick Motorsports. In addition, 15 hours were logged by the racing star in a simulator, which he used during his recovery in order to keep progress on his abilities despite not actually being able to physically get behind the wheel of a car.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ecstatic when giving a statement regarding his medical progress, and how he feels he will do in the Daytona 500. One of the most important steps for his recovery, he admits, was actually being able to sit in a racecar and drive one rather than just pretending to drive. He is very proud of himself regarding how well he did this past Wednesday, December 7, although he admits he was always confident that his test run would go smoothly given how hard he had worked in rehab.
He does, however, realize that he is not completely out of the woods yet regarding his concussion and the repercussions it may hold for his chances in February. Despite this, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is determined not to allow these doubts to prevent him from going far in the highly anticipated sporting event. Next month, he plans to practice as much as possible in order to “help knock the rust off” before the competition actually begins.
By Lorelai Zelmerlow