Things will be going back to normal for Hendrick Motorsports and the No.88 team as Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to compete.
After missing the past two chase races at Charlotte and Kansas and taking a hit to his championship hopes, Earnhardt is set to return at Martinsville, as announced by NASCAR on Tuesday. For just about 11 seasons Earnhardt had been apart of every race except for his first Cup season, back in 1999. Charlotte marked the first absence for Earnhardt, which also made the past two races feeling like something was missing.
Following the race at Talladega Superspeedway, Earnhardt had been diagnosed with a concussion, as he was one of the 25 drivers caught in the final lap wreck at Talladega. He went on to sit out of the following two races and had been replaced by Regan Smith in the No.88 car. As the car remained on the track, with Earnhardt sidelined, it felt like something was still missing, due to the fact that an Earnhardt has been a part of every race within the last 37 years.
Since 1999, Earnhardt has been within the field of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, before him it was his father, the late Dale Earnhardt had been racing since 1975. The Earnhardt name has been a part of the sport for so many years that by the time the green flag waived at Charlotte, just the fact that a Earnhardt wasn’t within the field could be compared to the weeks that the NFL had replacement officials. Things just didn’t feel like “home” or “normal” with one of the main figures of the sport missing.
For about 37 years, drivers, officials, and fans a like had been used to seeing the name Earnhardt within the lineup, so when the news came out following Talladega it was more of a shock considering the injury and how the sport’s most popular driver would be forced to sit out.
As Martinsville approaches, Earnhardt is set to make his return. Within the championship point standings, he currently sits in 12th. While returning Earnhardt can look forward to getting back into the swing of things and with four races left to go, one goal he can achieve is getting back within the top ten.
Earnhardt can also make things go back to normal when he goes back on the track, with an Earnhardt back within the Cup Series line up.
Martinsville will be the final short track of the year and short tracks are known to bring out the tempers, but this Martinsville race will consist of a happier note, the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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