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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss at least the next two races as he continues to recover from a concussion, according to a release from Hendrick Motorsports Wednesday.
Earnhardt was not cleared to race at Michigan International Speedway this weekend or Darlington Raceway on Sept. 4 after being re-evaluated Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
Alex Bowman will make his second start of the season this weekend at Michigan. Jeff Gordon will return to the car at Darlington, where his seven wins lead active drivers.
“We know how hard Dale is working to get back,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in the release. “He’s following what the doctors are saying, to the letter, and doing exactly what he needs to do. Everyone wants to see him in a race car, but his health is first and foremost. We’re behind him.”
Earnhardt last raced at Kentucky Speedway but subsequently complained of nausea and balance problems stemming, it was discovered, from concussions sustained earlier in his career. He has missed five races so far, with Michigan and Darlington extending his absence to seven.
He reasserted at a press conference two weeks ago that he intended to return to the series and honor his contract with HMS — which runs through next season — but said timetables were premature until he was healthy. Hendrick had been working on a contract extension for Earnhardt earlier this year.
Bowman replaced Earnhardt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — finishing 26th because of a cut tire and late crash — before former teammate Gordon came out of retirement to contest four races, with a best finish of 11th Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Gordon was unable to race at Michigan because of a prior commitment.