The last-lap crash at Talladega this past Sunday which took out most of the field has a victim: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior, who officially finished 20th after the melee, suffered a concussion and as a precaution it was decided he should sit out the next two events. Regan Smith, who was let go by Furniture Row Racing, will drive the #88 on Saturday night at Charlotte and then at Kansas the following week.
Kelley Earnhardt, Junior's sister verified the information tweeting: "Thks for the get well wishes. It will be tough for #dalejr to sit out but doctors orders for best interest of his health for the long term." And here's a picture of his car after the giant pileup giving Jimmie Johnson a ride to the pits (source - Examiner).
This was a second concussion the 38 year old Earnhardt had sustained in the past two months, suffering the first concussion at a tire test in Kansas.
After the wreck at Talladega, Earnhardt drove his car back to the pits (with Johnson aboard) and therefore wasn't required to go to the infield care center. Yesterday (Wednesday), Junior was diagnosed with the concussion - by the way, it was the North Carolina native's birthday.
It's not Junior's first foray into concussions, having stated 10 years ago that he drove numerous races with a concussion. After that surprising admittance, NASCAR has since made changes to their rules regarding the clearing of drivers after crashes.
After Talladega, Junior was seen cringing a few times and reporters were asking him if he was okay but he stated he was.
As a fan, I don't believe these types of injuries are treated properly in motorsports or for that matter any sport. As an Alzheimer's Advocate, I know that head injuries quite often lead to increased dementia in athletes later on in life. This shouldn't be treated lightly no matter what the initial cost or inconvenience.
Of course, being held out of these next two races most assuredly will eliminate Junior from Cup title contention. This breaks a streak of 461 consecutive starts in NASCAR Sprint Cup action for Junior.
Interestingly, Ricky Craven, ESPN analysts and former Cup driver who himself has had head injuries similar to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s states it wouldn't be a surprise if Junior "shut it down for the year" (source - ESPN).
Sources - Associated Press, Hendrick Motorsports
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.