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Rick Hendrick says Dale Earnhardt Jr. moving closer to being cleared to return

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks on from the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Car owner Rick Hendrick says he anticipates Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be cleared to get back into a race car in December.

Earnhardt has been sidelined since July because of a concussion suffered in a June 12 race at Michigan International Speedway. He last raced July 9 at Kentucky Speedway. Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have driven the No. 88 car for Earnhardt since. Bowman is in the No. 88 this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hendrick’s timetable confirms what Earnhardt has been saying. Earnhardt expects to be ready to compete in the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.

“Sometime in December the doctor is going to give him the final clearance and then we’ll to get him in a car,’’ Hendrick said Friday of Earnhardt. “He feels great. Everything is on track. Every step that we’ve supposedly needed to go through we’ve gone through. I don’t see anything holding us back.’’

Earnhardt is being treated by Dr. Micky Collins, who works at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Collins treated Earnhardt when the driver missed two races in 2012 because of a concussion.

Earnhardt has done various physical and mental exercises as part of his treatment since being out of the car. Hendrick said the driver is eager to return.

“He sent me a text the other day he was excited and waiting for Daytona,’’ Hendrick said. “I think we’ve just got a couple more hurdles to clear.’’

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