Earnhardt cleared to return

Dale Earnhardt Jr., waves to the crowd at a NASCAR event earlier in 2012. He will be back in action...

Dale Earnhardt Jr., waves to the crowd at a NASCAR event earlier in 2012. He will be back in action this weekend after missing two races as he recovered from a concussion. (JAMIE SQUIRE/Getty Images/AFP)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:25 AM ET

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been cleared to return to racing this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

NASCAR's biggest star has sat out the past two races -- at Charlotte and Kansas -- after suffering an undiagnosed concussion during a tire test at Kansas Speedway in July and compounding that injury in a last-lap wreck at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this month.

After seeing neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, the doctor ordered Earnhardt to sit out until symptoms subsided.

On Monday of this week Earnhardt tested in the No. 88 car at the half-mile oval at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., where he completed 123 laps without evidence that the concussion symptoms had returned.

In a statement Tuesday NASCAR officials gave the medical clearance for Earnhardt to race in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.

"Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition and will be back in the seat of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at Martinsville Speedway," NASCAR said. "Per NASCAR policy, NASCAR's medical liaison office received official notification of his clearance to resume racing late this morning."

Dr. Petty, who was at the Gresham test Monday, did a follow-up examination on Tuesday at his clinic in Charlotte.

"Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him," Dr. Petty said in a statement released by Hendrick Motorsports. "He hasn't had a headache since Oct. 12, and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time. I have informed NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports that he is medically cleared for all NASCAR-related activity."

It was also reported that Earnhardt at visited Dr. Mickey Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, during his forced sabbatical from racing.

Dr. Collins also treated NHL star Sidney Crosby after his two concussions.

There was no news about what happens now with Regan Smith, who replaced Earnhardt at Charlotte and Kansas and finished 39th after an engine failiure at Charlotte and 8th at Kansas this past Sunday.

The latest rumour has Smith running for Earnhardt's JR Motorsports Nationwide team next season, replacing Danica Patrick, who is moving up to Sprint Cup with Stewart Haas Racing.

ALLMENDINGER BACK

A winner in the Earnhardt drama over the past two weeks has to be A.J. Allmendinger, who now will be back in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Martinsville.

Allmendinger, of course, is coming off a three-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance -- Adderol -- and being fired from the No. 22 Dodge team at Penske Racing.

And when Regan Smith moved from Phoenix to fill in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Allmendinger got the call to drive the car at Charlotte and Kansas.

Team manager Steve Barkdoll was impressed enough with Allmendinger's performance to give him another chance to prove himself this week.

"A.J. has done a great job for us the last couple of weeks," Barkdoll said. "He hasn't gotten the breaks that he deserved. He runs well at Martinsville, so we would like to give him another shot."

Remember, Allmendinger had the best result of his career in the No. 22 Dodge -- he finished second behind Ryan Newman -- at Martinsville in the Spring race.

FINISH LINES

Kyle Busch has warned Ryan Newman that he can expect some payback for tapping him on Lap 182 Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Both Busch and Newman wrecked, but Busch figures it was all Newman's fault ... Seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Ross says a lack of on-track action is the culprit for "boring" racing this season. He told BBC Sports it comes from the fact that bikes and equipment are "too perfect" ... The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship unveiled its 2013 racing calendar Tuesday and the series will do a doubleheader in its lone Canadian stop July 13 and 14 at the Honda Indy Toronto. ... In a fragile economy, even superstars like Earnhardt are not immune from sponsorship woes. Pepsico announced this week it is cutting back on its $10 million Diet Mountain Dew commitment to the No. 88 team next season. The soft drink giant will sponsor the car for only five races in 2013, down from 20 this season.

SHE SAID, HE SAID

Just who was at fault for Danica Patrick wrecking during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday at Kansas Speedway has come down to a classic "She said, he said."

Patrick claimed she was looking for little payback after Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 Toyota, bumped her.

"He got into me on the front straight and said I was just in the way," Patrick said. "That's really no good reason to hit me. If it's one time, I can imagine it's frustration, but it's been quite a few times with him. At some point I have to stand up for myself so this doesn't happen with other people. I chose today."

Cassill, however, had another, opposing view of what happened.

"If you're going to make it three-wide and pass somebody, you've got to back it up," he told SBnation.com. "But she didn't. She goes under there, and then she's sliding up the racetrack and then jacks up the field, gets in the way. Then she lets two cars go by, and when I get underneath her, she crowds me. So I was like, 'No! I've been faster than you all day,' so I was going to move her. And I did. I didn't hit her because she was in my way and I wanted to pick on her, I hit her because she was driving like an idiot for 30th."

As Gaston Gazette sport columnist Monte Dutton put it: Not exactly a battle of the Titans.

HAMILTON BLAMES TEAM FOR POOR FINISHES

Lewis Hamilton feels that it is the failure of his McLaren team and not his performance that has dropped him out of contention for the Formula One world championship.

Results seem to back him up.

After winning at the Italian Grand Prix, his McLaren Mercedes had a series of mechanical issues: A transmission failure in Singapore; suspension failure at Japan, and an anti-roll bar failure in Korea.

"I feel I've been driving better than ever recently -- even if the results haven't quite shown it -- so I'm headed to India determined for another good result," he said. "I can't wait to get out there and start practising on Friday."

DEAN'S RANT

One of the things in NASCAR's top loops that really bugs me is the start and parkers that populate both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.

I have nothing against these guys on a personal level but if NASCAR wants to represent itself as an equal to the stick and ball pro sports, it has to step in to stop the practice of as many as half a dozen cars starting the race then after 15 laps are off the track.

Can you imagine baseball allowing a team to start a game with nine players but by the second inning take two of them off the field?

It is ludicrous, and it is cheating fans.

Some in the NASCAR community have suggested not paying teams that don't finish at least a third of a race.

Of course, drivers that have accidents would be exempt.

I think it is an idea worth trying.

Money, after all is the reason these guys start and park.

Just look at Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Start-and-parkers Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley and Reed Sorenson earned $78,907, $78,635 and $78,805 for completing just 7, 11 and 18 laps respectively.

Take away the dough and maybe they would be inclined to race until the end.


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