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Dale Earnhardt Jr. out for rest of the season

Nate Ryan takes an in depth look at the cause of the concussions and the research being done on the connection between brain trauma, concussions and athletes, in light of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ongoing health issues.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been medically cleared to compete the rest of the season because of a concussion suffered in a June 12 crash at Michigan International Speedway.

“I wish I could return to the No. 88 team this season,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, but I know this is the right thing for my long-term health and career. I’m 100 percent focused on my recovery, and I will continue to follow everything the doctors tell me. They’re seeing good progress in my test results, and I’m feeling that progress physically. I plan to be healthy and ready to compete at Daytona in February. I’m working toward that.

“The support from both inside and outside the race team has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so encouraging and positive, from my teammates and sponsors to my family, friends and fans. It’s motivating and humbling at the same time.”

Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman will share driving duties of the No. 88 car the rest of the season. Gordon will drive the car this weekend at Darlington Raceway. He’ll also be in the car at Richmond, Dover and Martinsville. Bowman will be in the car the remaining races.

Earnhardt has not competed since the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. Although doctors pinpointed Earnhardt’s concussion to the Michigan crash, Earnhardt said the symptoms didn’t develop until afterward. Earnhardt missed two races in 2012 because of a concussion. He also admitted to hiding a concussion after an accident in 2002.

“I know how hard Dale has worked and how frustrating this is for him,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “He wants to be back, and we want him back, but we want it to be for the long haul. We’ve had incredible support from everyone involved with the team, including all of our sponsors. They’ve put Dale’s health first every step of the way.

“Jeff and Alex will give us a great opportunity over the rest of the season. Jeff is one of the best of all time and knows our system. He brings things to the table that no one else can. Alex is a young driver with a lot of talent, and he will give us a fresh perspective. We know they’re not only capable of running up front and giving us a chance to win, but they’ll help us get better.”

Earnhardt, Hendrick and Dr. Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Darlington Raceway. Earnhardt has been regularly evaluated by Collins and Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty.

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