NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
       === Earnhardt Jr. to miss Charlotte, Kansas due to concussion ===
 
 Concord, NC (Sports Network) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not compete in the next
 two  Sprint  Cup Series  races due  to a  pair of  concussions he has suffered
 within the past six weeks.
 
 Earnhardt  Jr., who  is  NASCAR's  most popular  driver,  sustained his  first
 concussion  during  a crash while  participating in  the Aug. 29 Goodyear tire
 test at Kansas Speedway. The track surface at Kansas was repaved following the
 April 22 race there.
 
 Last  Sunday, Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a 25-car crash on the final lap at
 Talladega  Superspeedway. The  Hendrick Motorsports driver was examined by Dr.
 Jerry  Petty,  a neurosurgeon, on Tuesday  in Charlotte. Petty has worked with
 several NASCAR drivers in the past, including Earnhardt Jr.
 
 Complaining  of  headaches earlier this  week, Earnhardt Jr. underwent several
 tests, including an MRI, and therefore was diagnosed with a concussion.
 
 Earnhardt  Jr.  said during a press  conference on Thursday at Charlotte Motor
 Speedway  that  he had no  medical concerns following  his crash at Kansas and
 decided  not to see a doctor. He blew a right-front tire and slammed hard into
 the turn one wall.
 
 "I  remember everything about that accident, but I knew something was just not
 quite right," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I decided to just work through it. I've had
 concussions  before  and kind of  knew what I was  dealing with. I felt pretty
 good after a week or two and definitely 80 to 90 percent by the time the Chase
 started (Sept. 16 at Chicagoland), and by the time we got to Talladega, I felt
 a 100 percent, felt really good."
 
 Saturday  night's  race at Charlotte  is the fifth round  in the Chase for the
 Sprint Cup championship. Qualifying is scheduled for this evening.
 
 Though  his impact in  the Talladega wreck was less severe than the one he had
 at  Kansas,  Earnhardt Jr. noted  that he  did not feel  well in the days that
 followed,  and after  seeking advice from his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller,
 he decided to visit Petty for consultation.
 
 "I  knew  that I sort of  had regressed and had  a bit of a setback," he said.
 "When  you  know how  your body  is and when  you know  something is not quite
 right,  I knew as  soon as it happened that I had reinjured myself, for a lack
 of a better way to describe it. (The Talladega wreck) was not even half of the
 impact that I had at Kansas, but it was enough to cause me some concern."
 
 Earnhardt Jr. said he plans to drive his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
 after Kansas, if medically cleared by Petty and NASCAR.
 
 "He  had no  amnesia on either side  of either of the incidents, which is very
 important," Petty said. "What we'll do now is we want him to have four or five
 days  after he has no headache, and then we'll give him some sort of test like
 to  get  his pulse rate up,  see if we can  provoke a headache, and then if we
 can't,  we'll let him go out and drive a lap or two and see how that goes, and
 if that goes well, we'll probably clear him to race."
 
 Martinsville  (Oct. 28), Texas (Nov. 4), Phoenix (Nov. 11) and Homestead (Nov.
 18) are the last races on the schedule.
 
 Meanwhile, Regan Smith will substitute for Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car for
 Charlotte  and Kansas.  Smith made  his  final start  in  the No.  78 car  for
 Furniture  Row  Racing at Talladega. He  was originally scheduled to drive the
 No. 51 for James Finch's team, Phoenix Racing, at Charlotte.
 
 "I  talked  to Dr. Petty Tuesday  night," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "Dale
 had  an  examination Tuesday, and  Wednesday, he had an  MRI. I went down with
 Steve  (Letarte,  Earnhardt Jr's crew chief)  and Kelley to his office and saw
 the  MRI, and it was normal. At that point Dr. Petty had already said to me in
 the morning that he was not going to clear Dale to drive.
 
 "I called James Finch last night about 10:00 and asked him could we use Regan.
 He  agreed. So this  morning, we called Regan and told him we'd had it cleared
 with James, and that's where we are right now."
 
 To  prepare  for the  upcoming season  with Furniture Row,  Kurt Busch will be
 behind  the wheel  of the No. 78  for the remainder of this year after driving
 the  No.  51 for  Finch. A.J.  Allmendinger is  expected to  drive that car at
 Charlotte. NASCAR had suspended Allmendinger for violating its substance abuse
 policy  in June, but the former Penske Racing driver has been reinstated after
 completing NASCAR's "Road to Recovery" program.
 
 Earnhardt  Jr.  has made  461 consecutive  starts in Sprint  Cup, which is the
 fifth  longest among active drivers. The streak began at the start of his 2000
 rookie season.
 
 In  the April 2002 race at Fontana, Calif. Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion
 when  he crashed into the wall. He did not disclose his concussion until later
 in  the  season, prompting  NASCAR officials  to revise  its rule in medically
 clearing drivers to compete in upcoming events.
 
 After  finishing  20th at Talladega,  Earnhardt Jr. fell  to 11th in the Chase
 point standings. He is currently 51 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.
 
 At  the  end  of  Sunday's  race, Earnhardt  Jr.  expressed  his  anger  about
 restrictor-plate  racing  at  Talladega and  Daytona  International  Speedway,
 saying,  "If  this is what we  did every week. I  wouldn't be doing it. I will
 just put it to you like that. If this is how we raced every week, I would find
 another job."
 
 Earnhardt Jr. turned 38 years old on Wednesday.
 
 10/11 13:46:19 ET

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