Earnhardt Jr. Ready for Return
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on December 9, 2016 | 1:30 P.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't wait to resume his driving career now that he's been medically cleared to return to racing. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. can’t wait to resume his driving career now that he’s been medically cleared to return to racing.
Earnhardt got official word Wednesday after completing a test session at Darlington Raceway. Following the time at the South Carolina track, doctors officially proclaimed Earnhardt fully recovered from the concussion that sidelined him since last summer.
"The test couldn’t have gone any better," Earnhardt said Friday during a media teleconference. "I appreciate them creating opportunities and rules for drivers in this situation to be able to get in a car. It helps build your confidence to know everything is working like it’s supposed to, no matter what your injury is, before you get back into a full race weekend."
There's no concern on Earnhardt’s part about recurring symptoms now that he’s been given clearance by his medical team.
"I wouldn't be coming back to the seat and be excited about driving cars if there was any risk other than the typical risk every driver faces every Sunday," Earnhardt said. "I'm confident in what I've seen in myself, my improvement, and confident in what my doctors tell me about my future.
"I have a personal responsibility to myself to be smart and make great decisions. My health is No. 1. I'm not going to take any unnecessary risks."
Earnhardt feels so good about the future that he’s already speaking to Hendrick Motorsports about a contract extension to remain behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet after his current deal expires in 2017.
"We're probably going to revisit that (contract extension) before the season starts," Earnhardt said. "Before I got sick, Rick (team owner Rick Hendrick) and I had been talking about our future, the extension and what we wanted to do. That's definitely something on our list to get done."
Earnhardt is entering his 10th season at Hendrick Motorsports. Since joining the team, he's won nine races - including the 2014 Daytona 500 - and finished as high as fifth in points (2013).
His official return to action will come with the 2017 running of the Daytona 500 in February.
"Everybody's excited," Hendrick said. "It's a great Christmas present for our company and our fans."