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Childress tells a Dale Earnhardt story during Hall of Fame induction
Richard Childress tells his favorite story about Dale Earnhardt Sr. during his induction speech at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Nationwide to give fans inside look at Dale Earnhardt Jr.
NASCAR fans will get an inside look into Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return to racing beginning next Tuesday thanks to a six-part series provided by Nationwide Insurance. Nationwide is the official primary sponsor of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . "Unfinished Business" documents the offseason preparation and work behind Earnhardt's return to competition following last year's injury-shortened season. NASCAR's most popular driver missed the final 18 races of the year after suffering a concussion. The series is scheduled to go live on the Nationwide 88 Facebook page each Tuesday between Jan. 24 and this year's Feb. 26th running of the Daytona 500 . Two episodes will air the week leading into the season-opening race. A preview (trailer) of the series was posted to the Nationwide 88 Facebook page Thursday just before 6 p.m. ET. "Based on everything that happened last year, we wanted to really capitalize on Dale getting back in the car and all the excitement and interest, just the fans' general hunger for as much Dale Jr. content as we could provide," Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide, told NASCAR.com. "Going into the offseason as we did our production shoot for 2017 as we normally do, we wanted to add on a new layer ... a behind-the-scenes unique look around Dale . The offseason processes around production shoots, around designing the car, all the things that go into getting ready for Daytona. And having a real personal view from Dale conveying that." Each segment of the six-part series is short, informative and entertaining. For 2016, Nationwide produced a successful paint scheme unveil for Earnhardt's No. 88 entry. But following his injury officials wanted to go a little deeper this year. Portions of the series include Earnhardt's wife, Amy, car owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Greg Ives. "Just the people that are really close to everything ... that fans don't normally get," McCoy said. Earnhardt's prior medical condition didn't hinder the process, but sensitivities surrounding the issue were addressed with the Hendrick organization. McCoy said it is "a very small part of this six-episode series." "This is truly more about getting ready for Daytona; we absolutely touch on the subject of him being out of the car because you have to," he said. "But I would say the majority of it is around what goes into the offseason preparation, why he is even more excited for this year and all that." Among the information provided to fans will be why there may be a different look to this year's No. 88 Nationwide paint scheme. Earnhardt has always been actively involved in determining the appearance of his race cars and coming up with the look for this year's car was no different. "There was a unique little nugget that came out that we'd not heard on him growing up around his grandfather and his dad racing based on the car coming back from the race track," McCoy said. "The lighter cars you could always tell how the race went based on where the tire marks were, the dirt and everything else. On a white car you always had a better sense of that and we've really transitioned to a lighter paint scheme this year with more white mixed into it. "He pulls in some of those personal stories that we hadn't heard and I think the fans will get a really big kick out of learning a little bit more about why he likes lighter paint schemes." Earnhardt has 26 career wins in NASCAR's top series, and his final three -- at Talladega, Daytona and Phoenix in 2015 -- came with Nationwide on the car in a primary role. The company, which previously was the title sponsor for what is now the XFINITY Series, has been affiliated with Earnhardt and his family for many years. McCoy said the series sponsorship, which ran from 2008-14, was crucial in helping to prepare Nationwide for its relationship with Earnhardt . "We learned a lot and we would not have been ready and in position to be able to take over as majority primary (sponsor) of the No. 1 driver in the sport, for the fans' demands and what they would want out of a sponsor," he said. "I think the Nationwide Series allowed us to really learn and do a lot of great things. "But we've taken the program to new levels and heights in partnership with Dale . He's our best customer and we can authentically connect with him and our products and services because it's real. It's been real since he was 16 years old. As we're trying to expand the message of who Nationwide is and what we do, the many sides of our company." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr., Kahne to run two races each for JRM
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 12, 2017) -- Continuing a tradition of running his own JR Motorsports Chevrolets each season, Dale Earnhardt Jr . is scheduled to make a pair of starts in the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro this season in races at Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 18) and Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 8). Long-time JRM driver Kasey Kahne will drive the car at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 25) and Talladega Superspeedway (May 6). Scott Radel, director of engineering at JRM, has been tabbed to crew chief all four races. Radel has been a JRM engineer since 2013, and previously worked for Hendrick Motorsports . He won championships with JRM in 2014 and with two other teams as an engineer. Radel brings 20-plus years of experience in calling races. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to be atop the pit box for these four races, with Dale and Kasey behind the wheel," said Radel, a 44-year-old Ohio native. "JRM has had tremendous success over the past three seasons, and the ability to field a fifth entry is one that will help continue building on that momentum in 2017." Earnhardt Jr., who won for the first time in a JRM Chevrolet last year at Richmond International Raceway , will return to the .75-mile D-shaped oval for one of his two scheduled races, and the other will be in the Bristol night race. Sponsorship for both events will be announced at a later date. Earnhardt Jr. has made 40 starts in NASCAR XFINITY Series competition for JRM, winning at Richmond. In that span, he’s earned 20 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes. He owns four career NXS victories in six starts at Richmond and grabbed his lone win at Bristol in 2004. Kahne, as he did last season, will run in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in Hellmann's colors, and follow that up with Armour backing at Talladega Superspeedway . The No. 88 "All Star car" has been a full-time car the past two seasons, but with JRM's expansion to four full-time teams and the addition of new drivers William Byron and Michael Annett , it will be a fifth JRM entry in the four races named. Kahne has made 24 starts in JRM Chevrolets, with one victory at Daytona in 2014, and added 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.
Dale , Amy wed in New Year's Eve ceremony
RELATED: See photos from the big day Dale Earnhardt Jr . and fiancée Amy Reimann married Saturday night on New Year's Eve in front of family and friends that included scores of NASCAR drivers and personalities. The two awoke in 2017 as a married couple, thanking friends and fans for support on social media. Happily married!!! What an amazing experience. Looking forward to the rest of our lives @Amy_Reimann . #honeymooners pic.twitter.com/jepHaBiOGA — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) January 1, 2017 @dalejr and I are beginning 2017 as Mr. & Mrs.! Thank you for loving me and making me your wife. My heart is truly filled with love and joy. pic.twitter.com/wAmtYuqtBd — Amy Earnhardt (@Amy_Reimann) January 1, 2017 The celebration appears to have lasted deep into the night (and morning) as well. At 11:45 a.m. ET on New Year's Day, Amy -- who changed her last name to Earnhardt on Twitter -- was still waiting for her husband to wake up. I sure wish my husband would wake up! @DaleJr — Amy Earnhardt (@Amy_Reimann) January 1, 2017 Drivers such as Danica Patrick (who caught the bouquet!), Kyle Busch , Ryan Blaney and plenty of others shared sparse photos of the event, a black-tie affair that was heavy on the disco balls. The two were engaged for nearly 18 months, with Earnhardt Jr. popping the question in June 2015 while on vacation in Germany. It was at an old Lutheran church that Earnhardt's relatives had attended hundreds of years prior where the 14-time most popular driver dropped to one knee. It was at Champion's Week in Las Vegas where Junior and his now wife confirmed the date. "I'm really excited and have enjoyed going through the process," Earnhardt Jr. said at the time. "I've never been married before and I'm excited to be marrying Amy." The wedding was the capstone of what previously had been a tough year for the two-time Daytona 500 winner. Midway through the season, Earnhardt Jr. was out of his No. 88 Chevrolet after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. He would not drive again for the rest of the year, but previously announced -- also earlier this month -- that he has been cleared for 2017. Earnhardt Jr. shared updates of his recovery on social media, and credited Amy with helping fuel his desire to get back in the car. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Johnson wins NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jimmie Johnson , who won a record-tying seventh NASCAR championship this past season, has been voted the winner of the 2016 Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award presented by the National Motorsports Press Association. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast for the award of the NMPA membership. Others receiving votes were Carl Edwards ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Joey Logano ( Team Penske ). Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Johnson are the only NASCAR drivers to win seven titles in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The announcement was made during the NMPA's annual Convention and Awards Dinner held in Concord, North Carolina. It marks the seventh time Johnson, 41, has received the Driver of the Year honor. He also won the award in 2004, '06, '07, '09, '10, and '13. Johnson won five races in 2016, including the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that clinched his seventh championship. He ended the year with 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 36 races. The award is named in honor of Petty, NASCAR's win leader in its top series with 200 victories. It has been presented annually by the NMPA since 1969. Twenty-three different drivers have won the award since its inception. Other awards: Veteran motorsports journalist Al Pearce was named the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Pocono Spirit Award. Pearce raised more than $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet bearing the signatures of the 20 living World Driving Champions as well as those of Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project, which took nearly four years to complete, went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. ... Veteran public relations representative Dave Ferroni was named the 2016 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award. Ferroni has been involved in various forms of auto racing for more than 30 years. His company, DMF Communications, currently handles public relations for Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex, Jr. in NASCAR's premier series. ... ESPN.com motorsports writer Bob Pockrass was named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Joe Littlejohn Award for 2016. The award is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and is presented annually by the NMPA in recognition for outstanding service to the organization. Pockrass recently completed his eighth year as secretary treasurer for the NMPA. Richard Petty Driver of the Year Determined by vote of the membership, the Richard Petty Driver of the Year award has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season's most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR premier series champion: 2016, Jimmie Johnson ; 2015, Kyle Busch ; 2014, Kevin Harvick ; 2013, Jimmie Johnson ; 2012, Brad Keselowski ; 2011, Tony Stewart ; 2010, Jimmie Johnson ; 2009, Jimmie Johnson ; 2008, Carl Edwards ; 2007, Jimmie Johnson ; 2006, Jimmie Johnson ; 2005, Tony Stewart ; 2004, Jimmie Johnson ; 2003, Ryan Newman ; 2002, Tony Stewart ; 2001, Kevin Harvick ; 2000, Bobby Labonte ; 1999, Dale Jarrett; 1998, Jeff Gordon ; 1997, Dale Jarrett; 1996, Terry Labonte ; 1995, Jeff Gordon ; 1994, Dale Earnhardt ; 1993, Rusty Wallace; 1992, Davey Allison; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990, Dale Earnhardt ; 1989, Mark Martin; 1988, Rusty Wallace; 1987, Dale Earnhardt ; 1986, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt ; 1985, Bill Elliott ; 1984, Terry Labonte ; 1983, Bobby Allison; 1982, Darrell Waltrip; 1981, Darrell Waltrip; 1980 Dale Earnhardt ; 1979 Cale Yarborough; 1978 Cale Yarborough; 1977, Cale Yarborough; 1976, Darrell Waltrip; 1975, Richard Petty; 1974, Richard Petty; 1973, David Pearson; 1972, Bobby Allison; 1971, Bobby Allison; 1970, Bobby Isaac; 1969, LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Earnhardts on giving and receiving end of special gifts
It's probably difficult to surprise a driver like Dale Earnhardt Jr . who's used to lightning quick movements in a NASCAR race, but that's exactly what Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, did when it named an activity room after Earnhardt and his wife Amy on Saturday. Both went on social media to share their appreciation for the honor: Blown away by @Nationwide gift to me and @AmyEarnhardt . They renamed the @nationwidekids Activity Room in our honor. Incredibly humbling. pic.twitter.com/cqBBx3Cfob — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) January 22, 2017 Humbling to say the very least. Thank you so much for all you do for the many treated @nationwidekids ! We will come back to visit soon! https://t.co/WFMDpYjDGN — Amy Earnhardt (@AmyEarnhardt) January 22, 2017 But that's not all that made it a special weekend for the Earnhardts. Junior auctioned off cars at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona, and raised $400,000 for @Nationwidekids . That's a lot of zeros and a good weekend of work for the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . A big check with lots of zeros. #ForTheKids #NW88JR pic.twitter.com/gSpytkPAhT — Nationwide 88 (@nationwide88) January 22, 2017
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 honored, inducted
RELATED: Recap induction night, watch more speeches CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The enshrinement of three car owners of paramount importance to stock car racing, a driver who proved a prolific winner in NASCAR’s top-two series and a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion who would become one of the most beloved storytellers in the history of the sport highlighted Friday night’s induction of the Class of 2017 into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Not only did the emotional proceedings usher one of NASCAR’s first car owners, Raymond Parks, into the Hall. Also recognized were the ongoing accomplishments of two owners -- Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick -- whose efforts have helped to produce a pair of seven-time champions. Friday night also brought the induction of driver Mark Martin, who won 40 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , another 49 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and who finished second in the championship standings at NASCAR’s highest level no less than five times. WATCH: Martin enters the 'grandest Victory Lane' Perhaps the most gripping moment of the night was the enshrinement of 1973 Cup champion Benny Parsons, a man of indefatigable good humor who flourished after his driving career as one of the most beloved broadcasters the sport has known. Parsons lost his life on Jan. 16, 2007 after a courageous battle against lung cancer. Appropriately, Parks was first to be enshrined. Introduced by Kevin Harvick and inducted posthumously by family friend Kyle Petty, Parks was a close friend of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and a pillar of the sport in its formative years. Born in the mountains of north Georgia, Parks shares "moonshine" roots with such NASCAR pioneers as Junior Johnson. Parks later grew successful jukebox and vending machine businesses in Atlanta before venturing into NASCAR ownership. Parks won NASCAR's first two championships, in modifieds in 1948 and in Strictly Stock (NASCAR's top division) with Red Byron behind the wheel and Red Vogt as crew chief. RELATED: 'Lost' films restored, reveal Parks' talent "He put his money where his mouth was, investing in our great pastime as an owner," Harvick said. "The World War II veteran captured NASCAR's first premier series championship in 1949 and nearly 70 years later has earned the highest honor from the sport he always believed in." "Without Raymond Parks, there would be no Richard Petty -- there’s nothing to build on," Kyle Petty said. Introduced by fellow Michigander Brad Keselowski , Parsons won his only championship in 1973, an achievement that came during a string of nine straight years (1972-1980) in which Parsons finished in the top five in the final standings. All told, Parsons won 21 races, including the 1975 Daytona 500 , during a career whose hallmark was remarkable consistency. In 526 starts at NASCAR’s highest level, Parsons finished in the top 10 283 times, an enviable 54 percent. "He's from Detroit, and he came from being a Michigan taxi driver to a NASCAR champion," Keselowski said. "Think about that. That seems like the script from a Hollywood movie. "But that is exactly what Benny Parsons accomplished in 1973." WATCH: Childress says his story's possible 'only in America' Childress’ grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon -- both of whom are racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year -- introduced their "Pop Pop," the car owner with whom inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class member Dale Earnhardt won six of his seven championships. "My brother and I are so proud and honored to introduce Pop Pop," Austin Dillon said. "There are countless family stories I could share of his true grit, persistence, determination, and love for others." Including Earnhardt ’s six with RCR, Childress has won 11 titles combined in NASCAR’s top three touring series, second only to fellow inductee Hendrick’s 15. "I’m honored to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with my heroes," said Childress, who was inducted by his wife, Judy Childress. "Just look around this wall and look at the greats that we'll be going in the Hall of Fame with. Unbelievable. And to go in the Class of 2017 with so many great inductees is quite an honor." Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and four-time titleholder Jeff Gordon did the introduction honors for Hendrick, their car owner. "The stats speak for themselves: 15 national series championship, 245 Cup wins, certainly impressive numbers, but more important than the wins and the championships is the person behind them," Gordon said. "He's the most loyal man I know. He'll take the shirt right off his back for you. His accomplishments are endless, and his character is unrivaled." Hendrick accepted induction from his wife, Linda Hendrick. WATCH: Hendrick thanks NASCAR family "I humbly accept this tonight, and all the drivers that have been involved in our company, all the mechanics, everybody that's ever been a part of it, I accept this on your behalf, past and present," Hendrick said. "I know my son (Ricky Hendrick, killed in a 2004 plane crash) is watching tonight, and he's so proud. Congratulations to Jimmie for winning No. 7, dedicating it to him … "But I can tell you that the feelings that I have for this sport and for all the people in it, all the sponsors -- and I've got so many here tonight I can't name them all, don't want to do that -- but it's your faith, it's your family and your friends that get you through life, and that's the most important thing. When it's all over, it's the people that you touch and the lives you change that make a difference in this world." Introduced by former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth and inducted by team owner Jack Roush, Martin chronicled a career that began in 1981 and ended at Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013. In between, Martin finished second in the standings four times with Roush -- the first in 1990 -- and once with Hendrick, in 2009, during Johnson’s run of five straight titles. Martin won 96 races across all three NASCAR national touring series, currently seventh all-time. He credited Roush with giving him a welcome opportunity to drive RFR Fords in 1988, after his career had stalled. "He was hell-bent and determined as I was to make a name for himself winning races and competing for championships at NASCAR's highest level," Martin said. "Jack Roush gave me that second chance." During Friday night’s ceremony, Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles was recognized with the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Opened in 1947, Martinsville is the only track to have hosted races at NASCAR’s highest level since the sanctioning body’s formation in 1949. The late Benny Phillips, former reporter and sports editor for the High Point (N.C.) Enterprise received the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Overcoming polio to pursue his career as a journalist, Phillips also wrote for Stock Car Racing magazine for 27 years and spent 12 years covering racing with TBS. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Liberty University returns to Byron after JRM move
William Byron will once again be sponsored by Liberty University, following his transition to the XFINITY Series and JR Motorsports, the team announced Monday . Byron, who unveiled the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro during a Facebook Live stream, will drive the No. 9 entry in 17 of 33 events this season, beginning with the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25. "Welcoming back both William and reuniting with Liberty University, it feels like a homecoming for us," said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. "It's remarkable to see how quickly William has advanced his talents since he drove for our Late Model team. With the support from Liberty, we have a strong platform for him to have success at the XFINITY level." Liberty University was a previous partner with JRM during Byron's Late Model career with the team in 2014 and 2015, before he spent the past two seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series. Along with the sponsorship news, JRM also announced Dave Elenz will serve as crew chief for Byron and the No. 9 Liberty University team in 2017. Elenz, a 35-year-old native of Gaylord, Michigan, transitions from a two-year stint as crew chief of JRM's No. 88 entry. He guided the team to four victories with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick . "It's a privilege to have Liberty University on board with us in 2017," said Byron, a Liberty University freshman taking online classes. "I've been honored to have had them as a partner the last few years, and I'm excited to take them into the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season. "I'm also looking forward to working with Dave. He brings a lot to the table in terms of experience and leadership in this series. That will go a long way in helping our No. 9 team on the track this year." A schedule of the 2017 races with Liberty University as primary sponsor will be announced at a later date, as will additional partners for Byron and the No. 9 team. Apart from its primary races, Liberty University will receive associate placement in the remaining 16 events. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Cain: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better
RELATED: Timeline of Junior's injury, recovery For so many years we have been impressed with Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s performance on the race track -- the 26 NASCAR premier series wins, the pair of emotional Daytona 500 victories, the absolutely extraordinary 14 Most Popular Driver awards. However, what is most remarkable -- and equally as important -- to his legacy is the way he handled a concussion diagnosis and recovery in the last six months. The green light he received Wednesday to begin competing again at NASCAR's highest level is a result of dedicated effort in recovery and unwavering belief in himself ... and the willingness and fortitude to get better the right way. It is a lesson for us all. Earnhardt has done the hard work to make sure he was genuinely healthy enough to race again -- the early mornings, the monotonous workouts, the tedious daily therapies, the medical tests and the doctor visits. He had to learn again how to feel comfortable in busy places and to challenge his instincts. It took great patience, high hopes and an overwhelming motivation to recover. Earnhardt has conceded often through this difficult and long road back that even he, one of his sport's greatest, had to rely on others at times for that extra push or reinforcement. PHOTOS: Junior through the years He spoke just last week in Las Vegas during Champion's Week about the hard times when progress was slow and difficult to see. But he motored on, so to speak, and the result is a return to his beloved NASCAR competition with the confidence that he has recovered fully. Doctors evaluated him at a test at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday and gave him the thumbs-up to suit up for the 2017 season. Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program, has been overseeing Junior's rehab and consulted with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, who attended the test. Both gave their approval. "I feel great, and I'm excited to officially be back," Earnhardt said. "I expected things to go really well (at the test), and that's exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." "I'll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it's time to go to Daytona, I'll be ready." He can say that with full assurance. Earnhardt never took an easy way out. He didn't go to medical "yes" men to give him early clearance, eager to put a professional athlete back in the spotlight. And the end result is not only a healthy superstar, but a new standard of recovery for the sport. MORE: All of Junior's premier series victories Having a head injury is frightening because of its inexact science. Doctors know how to repair a broken leg and how long it takes to recover fully. Correcting the brain is an entirely different story. You can't look at a person with a brain injury and know if they healed properly and completely. You can't spend half an hour chatting with them or a night at dinner with them and know for sure, either. It would have been a foolhardy decision for Earnhardt to ignore the physical symptoms and just get back in the car. Some older racers might admit -- at least off the record -- that "back in the day" they may have competed when they should not have. But times are different, and by doing "the right thing," Earnhardt reinforced the need to take these kind of injuries seriously and that athletes can and should take all the time necessary to recover properly. Even if that sidelines a shining star. " Dale deserves so much credit," said Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick. "I'm proud of him for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others." Millions share the sentiment. And perhaps millions more will follow. This year's Most Popular Driver only competed in half of the 36-race 2016 schedule. His popularity should actually increase because he made the harder "right" decision to step away and heal properly when faced with serious and unknown circumstances. On New Year's Eve, Earnhardt will marry his longtime love Amy Reimann. Two months later at the 2017 Daytona 500 he will return to NASCAR's highest level of competition. So a high and hearty toast to the sport's most beloved driver, for healing fully and for leading the way. For doing the hard work and prevailing. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr. injury timeline
Dale Earnhardt Jr . was cleared to compete in 2017 after sitting out much of the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports officials announced Dec. 8. A crash at Michigan International Speedway in June is believed to be the cause of Junior's injury, and the ever-popular driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet said in July that he was going to focus on being healthy and ready to compete at the 2017 season opening Daytona 500 . Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman split fill-in duty for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88 car for the second half of the 2016 season. Read through the progression of Dale Jr.'s injury and recovery through the timeline of events below.