Dale Jr. medically cleared, will run 2017 Daytona 500
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Dale Earnhardt Jr., two-time Daytona 500 winner, has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition in the 2017 Daytona 500 .
Sights and Sounds: 5-Hour Energy 500
Take a dramatic look back at the Jeff Gordon's victory along with the sights and sounds from Pocono.
Stats advance: Analyzing the 5-hour Energy 301
A statistical look ahead to the 19th race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 13, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire going into the 5-hour ENERGY 301 on July 19 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). NEW HAMPSHIRE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota) · Two wins, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14. 500 , 10th-best · Average Running Position of 12.335, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 95.0, eighth-best · 245 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.934, seventh-fastest · 3760 Laps in the Top 15 (69.9), eighth-most · 498 Quality Passes, 10th-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) · One win, seven top fives, ten top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 14.050, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 13.375, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 94.7, ninth-best · 232 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.801, 11th-fastest · 3975 Laps in the Top 15 (66.5), 10th-most · 532 Quality Passes, eighth-most Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Three wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 17. 500 , 12th-best · Average Running Position of 14.294, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 13th-best · 187 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · 3529 Laps in the Top 15 (59.0), 13th-most · 548 Quality Passes, sixth-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 13.350, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.743, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.1, sixth-best · 251 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.100, fifth-fastest · 4435 Laps in the Top 15 (74.2), fourth-most · 625 Quality Passes, third-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet) · Three wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 10.700, third-best · Average Running Position of 7.680, series-best · Driver Rating of 107.3, series-best · 457 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.292, series-fastest · 5266 Laps in the Top 15 (88.1), series-most · 676 Quality Passes, series-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota) · Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 10. 500 , second-best · Average Running Position of 11.406, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 103.2, third-best · 320 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.064, sixth-fastest · 3936 Laps in the Top 15 (73.2), fifth-most · 570 Quality Passes, fourth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/ Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.750, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 12.288, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 93.1, 10th-best · 219 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.890, ninth-fastest · 4002 Laps in the Top 15 (66.9), ninth-most · 465 Quality Passes, 11th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, ten top fives, 18 top 10s · Average finish of 10.950, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 11.144, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 102.1, fourth-best · 432 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.193, third-fastest · 4758 Laps in the Top 15 (79.6), second-most · 626 Quality Passes, second-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet) · One win, three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 18.050, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 14.160, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 91.3, 12th-best · 340 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.891, eighth-fastest · 3781 Laps in the Top 15 (63.2), 12th-most · 534 Quality Passes, seventh-most Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.000, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 12.985, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 95.6, seventh-best · 229 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.866, 10th-fastest · 2147 Laps in the Top 15 (65.3), 11th-most · 336 Quality Passes, 12th-most Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) · Two top fives, two top 10s · Average finish of 2. 500 , series-best · Average Running Position of 10.730, third-best · Driver Rating of 99.1, fifth-best · 14 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.217, second-fastest · 443 Laps in the Top 15 (72.9), sixth-most · 51 Quality Passes, 13th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet) · Three wins, seven top fives, 16 top 10s; seven poles · Average finish of 15.150, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 13.142, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 91.8, 11th-best · 169 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.770, 12th-fastest · 4342 Laps in the Top 15 (72.6), seventh-most · 504 Quality Passes, ninth-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Three wins, 14 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.947, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 10.290, second-best · Driver Rating of 106.9, second-best · 412 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.104, fourth-fastest · 4347 Laps in the Top 15 (76.6), third-most · 557 Quality Passes, fifth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 28 1 1 6 14 0 13.9 93.1 2 Jimmie Johnson 26 0 3 10 18 1 10.3 102.1 3 Joey Logano 13 0 2 3 5 2 17.9 77.2 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr 31 0 0 7 14 4 15.3 97.1 5 Martin Truex Jr 18 0 0 3 6 1 14.4 86.3 6 Brad Keselowski 11 3 1 4 7 0 11 95.6 7 Jamie McMurray 24 0 0 4 6 3 20.5 70.4 8 Kurt Busch 28 0 3 7 11 1 16.1 88.1 9 Matt Kenseth 30 0 1 7 15 1 13.3 85.7 10 Jeff Gordon 40 4 3 16 22 2 11.4 107.3 11 Denny Hamlin 18 0 2 7 11 0 10.5 103.2 12 Kasey Kahne 22 0 1 3 8 3 17 91.3 13 Paul Menard 16 0 0 0 0 0 23.7 61.4 14 Ryan Newman 26 7 3 7 16 3 13.8 91.8 15 Clint Bowyer 18 1 2 4 7 1 14.5 95.0 16 Aric Almirola 9 0 0 1 2 0 19.6 64.8 New Hampshire Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 19 of 36 (07-19-15) Track Size : 1.058-mile Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 2 to 7 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 2 to 7 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 1 degree Banking/Backstretch : 1 degree Frontstretch Length : 1, 500 feet Backstretch Length : 1, 500 feet Race Length : 301 laps / 318.46 miles Top 10 Driver Rating at New Hampshire Jeff Gordon .............................. 107.3 Tony Stewart ............................. 106.9 Denny Hamlin ............................ 103.2 Jimmie Johnson ........................ 102.1 Kyle Larson . ............................... 99.1 Dale Earnhardt Jr . ....................... 97.1 Brad Keselowski ......................... 95.6 Clint Bowyer ............................... 95.0 Kyle Busch ................................. 94.7 Kevin Harvick .............................. 93.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (20 total) among active drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Kyle Busch , Toyota 138.130 mph, 27.574 secs. 07-11-14 2014 race winner : Brad Keselowski , Ford 108.741 mph, (02:58:03), 07-13-14 Track qualifying record: Brad Keselowski , Ford 140.598 mph, 27.090 secs. 09-21-14 Track race record: Jeff Burton , Ford 117.134 mph, (02:42:35), 07-13-97 New Hampshire Motor Speedway: History · Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was Aug. 13, 1989. · The 1.058-mile oval is located on approximately 1,200 acres; the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was on July 11, 1993 – won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace . · Speedway Motorsports, Inc. agreed to purchase New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre on January 11, 2008 and then renamed the track New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Starts · There have been 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year since. · 160 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire; 129 in more than one. · Jeff Gordon has competed in all 40 races at New Hampshire – the only driver to accomplish the feat. · Only one active championship contending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has made their first career start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Joey Logano (9/14/08). · Three drivers will attempt to make their series debuts at New Hampshire this weekend: Trevor Bayne , Matt DiBenedetto and Brett Moffitt . · Ryan Newman leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at New Hampshire with an 8.692. Poles · Mark Martin won the inaugural Coors Light pole at New Hampshire in 1993 with a speed of 126.871 mph. · 18 drivers have Coors Light poles at New Hampshire, led by Ryan Newman with seven. · Four active drivers have multiple poles at New Hampshire: Ryan Newman (seven), Jeff Gordon (four), Brad Keselowski (three) and Kyle Busch (two). · Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at New Hampshire: Ken Schrader (1997 sweep); Jeff Gordon (1998-1999); Rusty Wallace (1999-2000); Ryan Newman (twice – 2003-2004 and 2011 sweep); Juan Pablo Montoya (2009-2010). · Youngest New Hampshire Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (07/17/2005 – 21 years, 8 months, 23 days). · Oldest New Hampshire Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (07/21/2002 – 46 years, 9 months, 13 days). · Brad Keselowski (9/19/10) is the only active driver to post his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Wins · 24 different drivers have won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, led by Jeff Burton with four. · Eight active drivers have multiple wins at NHMS: Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Ryan Newman , Tony Stewart (each have three); Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano (each have two) · Two drivers have posted consecutive wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep) and Kurt Busch (2004 sweep). · Youngest New Hampshire winner: Joey Logano (06/28/2009 – 19 years, 1 month, 4 days). · Oldest New Hampshire winner: Mark Martin (09/20/2009 – 50 years, 8 months, 11 days). · Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with nine; followed by Roush Fenway Racing (seven), Team Penske (six), Joe Gibbs Racing (six) and Richard Childress Racing (four). · Five different manufacturers have won at New Hampshire; led by Chevrolet with 18 victories; followed by Ford (13), Toyota (four), Dodge (three) and Pontiac (two). · Jeff Burton is the only driver to win the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway three consecutive years in a row (1997, ’98 and ’99) · Five of the 40 (12.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Ryan Newman in 2011. · The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (five) than any other starting position at New Hampshire. · Eight of the 40 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from the front row: five from the pole and three from second-place. · 22 of the 40 (55%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Nine of the 40 (22.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at New Hampshire is 38th, by Jeff Burton in 1999. · The deepest in the field that an active race winner has started at New Hampshire is 32nd, by Kurt Busch in the summer of 2003. · Dale Earnhardt Jr . leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at New Hampshire without visiting Victory Lane at 31; followed by Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears (24 starts each). · Three active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Ryan Newman (9/15/02), Clint Bowyer (9/16/07) and Joey Logano (6/28/09). Additional Finishing Position Stats · Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are tied for the series lead in runner-up finishes at New Hampshire with five each. · Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at New Hampshire with 16; followed by Tony Stewart with 14 and Jimmie Johnson with 10. · Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at New Hampshire with 22; followed by Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson with 18 each. · Jimmie Johnson leads NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at New Hampshire with an 10.269. · All 14 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at New Hampshire Motor Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano won at New Hampshire in their second appearance. Track Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the July 1, 2007 race won by Denny Hamlin over Jeff Gordon with a MOV of 0.068 second. · 17 of the 33 (51.5%) NSCS races scored by el
NASCAR, Monster Energy announce premier series entitlement partnership
RELATED: Official NASCAR release " NASCAR Nation reacts to news LAS VEGAS – NASCAR announced on Thursday at Wynn Las Vegas a multi-year deal that will make Monster Energy only the third entitlement sponsor in premier series history. The length and terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both parties hailed the partnership as the perfect fit for both brands. "Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR," said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. "This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today's announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport’s history." Monster Energy has existing sponsorships with a number of motorsports sanctioning bodies, athletes and teams, but the NASCAR deal signals the biggest sponsorship step in the company's history. "Monster has built its brand on racing and motorsports, and NASCAR is the pinnacle of motorsports in America," said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing at Monster Beverage Company. "It's American racing; we're an American brand that's a global company, and NASCAR is, too. When the opportunity came along to further associate yourself with a sport like NASCAR, it was the perfect fit for us. … NASCAR is just a hard-hitting, close-racing, fun property to be associated with." Along with naming rights to NASCAR's top series, Monster Energy will also hold race sponsorship to the NASCAR All-Star Race and become the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR. Monster Energy also said it will continue to sponsor Stewart-Haas Racing 's No. 41 car. Thursday's announcement is the culmination of a lengthy and thorough search by NASCAR to find the successor to Sprint, whose entitlement sponsorship will end on December 31, 2016. Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, said that the sanctioning body spoke with numerous companies throughout the process, ultimately choosing Monster Energy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its lifestyle culture. "We have the good fortune of finding a brand that we believe works for our sport," Phelps said. "They're going to bring their lifestyle to their activation. … They're going to bring their brand, their excitement, their energy to this partnership, and the fans are going to be the winners. It's all about engaging the fans and having the fans have unique, fun experiences whether at the race track or through different mediums, through social, digital, content." Phelps said a number of ancillary details will be announced in the coming weeks. Among those still under discussion is the name of the series, the series mark and the championship trophy. Under the agreement, energy drink sponsors already involved in NASCAR may remain in place. Potential sponsors from the energy drink category will not be eligible for future sponsorship if not already involved in the sport.
NASCAR reveals multi-year partnership with Monster Energy for Premier Series Entitlement
RELATED: NASCAR, Monster Energy announce deal " NASCAR Nation reacts DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR and Monster Energy announced today a multi-year agreement for the premier series entitlement as well as the prestigious annual NASCAR All-Star Race. Monster Energy , which will begin its tenure as naming rights partner on Jan. 1, 2017, will become only the third company to serve as the entitlement sponsor in NASCAR premier series history, following RJ Reynolds and Sprint/Nextel. As part of the agreement, the brand also becomes the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR. "Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR," said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. "This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today's announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport’s history." NASCAR premier series races long have been a bucket-list destination for sports fans throughout the country, and starting next season, Monster Energy will elevate the event experience to an even higher level. As part of the agreement, Monster Energy will engage with fans in creative, innovative ways at all race tracks where the premier series will race. " Monster Energy has an established and versatile history in motorsports, and we’re thrilled to take this historic next step," said Rodney Sacks, Monster Beverage Chairman and CEO. "We feel strongly that our brand is a perfect fit for this sport and its star athletes. We look forward to interacting with the millions of passionate NASCAR fans week-in, week out."
Reactions to Monster Energy being named NASCAR entitlement sponsor
NASCAR announced on Thursday in Las Vegas that Monster Energy would become the new entitlement sponsor of stock car auto racing's premier series. Needless to say, the NASCAR community was thrilled with the news. Happy to see the fusion of @NASCAR , the sport I love & @MonsterEnergy , the brand I love. Future is bright...proud to be part of both. #KB41 pic.twitter.com/CpwnZRrukH — Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) December 1, 2016 Wow! @MonsterEnergy https://t.co/asVCzDghNZ — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) December 1, 2016 Cutting edge brand that has the potential to bring a millennial fan base to our sport. https://t.co/tqpAf52B0F — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) December 1, 2016 Big for the sport. https://t.co/avLVnaR6bg — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) December 1, 2016 Pretty fired up about this. Welcome @MonsterEnergy https://t.co/72QVMLe4S8 — Ryan Truex (@Ryan_Truex) December 1, 2016 Looks like @MonsterEnergy will be the new sponsors for the Cup Series! #Nascar pic.twitter.com/dRvhWz8o9j — Joey Gase Racing (@JoeyGaseRacing) December 1, 2016 Wow that's great! Hopefully this will bring a younger crowd to @NASCAR . Congrats @MonsterEnergy ! https://t.co/04gtBzVRMh — Tanner Berryhill (@tannerberryhill) December 1, 2016 Way to go @NASCAR , big initiative to engage younger audience. This is a huge step in that direction! @MonsterEnergy — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) December 1, 2016 Awesome to see @MonsterEnergy as the new entitlement partner. Great brand with a lot of energy . Can't wait for Daytona #NASCAR — Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) December 1, 2016 Excited for @MonsterEnergy to sponsor the series i think it's a great move for our sport! — Ty Dillon (@tydillon) December 1, 2016 We're excited to hear @MonsterEnergy , "The Official Energy Drink of Pocono Raceway " is now sponsoring @NASCAR 's Premier Series in 2017! pic.twitter.com/LTlx3AodjZ — Pocono Raceway (@poconoraceway) December 1, 2016 Thrilled to have you on board, @MonsterEnergy ! https://t.co/YBRfWos4KE — Richmond Raceway (@RIRInsider) December 1, 2016 Welcome to the @NASCAR family @MonsterEnergy ! We'll see you soon for #Speedweeks and the #DAYTONA500 ! https://t.co/oRIZmXJQoo — Daytona IntlSpeedway (@DISupdates) December 1, 2016 It’s Official, Monster Energy replace Sprint as the new NASCAR Premier Series Sponsor! #NASCAR Welcome to the Family @MonsterEnergy — Martinsville Spdway (@MartinsvilleSwy) December 1, 2016 Welcome to the family @MonsterEnergy @NASCAR pic.twitter.com/eCHuHPEjpJ — Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) December 1, 2016
UNOH, Daytona announce multi-year partnership
Daytona International Speedway announced today a multi-year partnership with University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) for the school to secure the naming rights of the Fanzone, the 211,636-square foot entertainment hub located in the infield of the "World Center of Racing." UNOH, located in Lima, Ohio, invented the first high-performance motorsports degree program in the country, and in 2006, opened the largest U.S. facility dedicated to learning the science of high-performance vehicles – a seven-acre, 70,000-square foot high performance motorsports complex. The UNOH Fanzone, which first opened in 2005 at the "World Center of Racing," is located between the NASCAR premier series garages and NASCAR XFINITY Series garages and puts fans in the middle of the event action with fan forums, historic displays, autograph sessions, entertainment and merchandise as well as access to pre-race activities. Other amenities include the Fan Deck on top of the NASCAR premier series garages and garage viewing windows with autograph slots. "We're excited to continue to grow our relationship with the University of Northwestern Ohio," Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. "UNOH is widely recognized throughout the country for their motorsports degree program. We look forward to them engaging with our fans in the UNOH Fanzone, which delivers the most fan-friendly, hands-on experience in all of motorsports." "We are thrilled to expand our partnership with Daytona International Speedway and have another venue to share with motorsports fans the unique educational opportunity students can get at the University of Northwestern Ohio," UNOH president, Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis said. "Students from all 50 states and 49 countries have attended the University and we have UNOH graduates working in all facets of motorsports from dirt-track teams all the way up through NASCAR to NHRA and beyond. The UNOH Fanzone experience will bring to life what our students experience in the classroom and shop every day." UNOH will also continue to serve as the Official Education Partner of Daytona International Speedway and have an on-site marketing presence at the facility including event signage, display space, tickets and hospitality. Financial terms were not disclosed. In 1992, UNOH invented the first high-performance motorsports degree program in the country and has since been training students with the latest technology available in the industry. Students receive first-hand motorsports mechanical training from instructors who’ve spent years in the field. Tickets for the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter , Facebook , Instagram , Pinterest , YouTube and Snapchat (username: DISupdates), and by downloading Daytona International Speedway 's mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to resume NASCAR competition
RELATED: Dale through the years " Recovery timeline CAIN: Dale Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better NASCAR premier series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has received medical clearance to resume his racing career, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Earnhardt, 42, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. On Wednesday, he participated in an on-track testing session at Darlington Raceway under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's on-track activity, has overseen Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened," Earnhardt said of an afternoon spent behind the wheel at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track. "Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." Earnhardt completed 185 laps in his No. 88 Chevrolet during the course of the nearly five-hour session. Crew chief Greg Ives was on hand to oversee his driver’s efforts as well. Earnhardt, recently voted the series most popular driver for the 14th consecutive season, said he expects to do more testing in January "to help knock the rust off." RELATED: Junior wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "When it's time to go to Daytona, I' ll be ready," the winner of 26 premier series races said. The 2017 racing season officially gets underway with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt will not compete in the annual non-points, season-opening race, The Clash at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Instead, HMS officials said Alex Bowman , who filled in for Earnhardt in 10 of the final 18 races of 2016, will drive the team's No. 88 entry. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix in November, his first in the series. "Everyone agreed that he more than earned (the opportunity)," Earnhardt said, "and (sponsor) Nationwide was 100 percent on board." RELATED: NASCAR community reacts to Junior's return It's possible Earnhardt could participate in up to two additional tests – Hendrick Motorsports is one of four teams expected to take part in a Goodyear tire test scheduled for Jan. 10-11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , and the season's first organizational test is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . Collins called Earnhardt "one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered." "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver," Collins said. "Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved." Team owner Rick Hendrick said he's proud of Earnhardt "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," Hendrick said. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the race track at Daytona." In addition to Bowman, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon also drove for the team in eight starts during Earnhardt's absence. Earnhardt was 13th in points with six top-five finishes before being sidelined prior to the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and wound up 32nd in the final standings. The 2012 injury forced him to miss two races; he finished 12th in points that season. &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.
Next up for Hendrick, Junior: Contract discussion
RELATED: Junior: 'Stronger than before' " Earnhardt medically cleared Rick Hendrick considers it a wonderful early Christmas present. Having Dale Earnhardt Jr . medically cleared to resume driving Hendrick's No. 88 Chevrolet has been six months in the making. And the whole storied, championship organization couldn't be happier with Thursday's official word that NASCAR's reigning Most Popular Driver will be behind the wheel for the 2017 season after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season recovering from a concussion. "We're as big a fan of Dale's as the rest of the community and when you have the most popular driver in the sport and then lose him. ... He's a big spark plug to this place," Hendrick said. "Having him out of the car kinda deflates the place and you know, when that test finished and he came through with such flying colors, the text I got and conversation I had, you could feel it in the place even today with the rest of the teams. "It elevated the whole place." So much so that Hendrick and Earnhardt are already prepared to resume contract extension talks, Earnhardt revealed Friday in his first teleconference with the national media since getting the go-ahead to return to competition. "We're probably going to revisit that before the season starts," said Earnhardt, 42, whose current contract runs through 2017. "Before I got sick, Rick and I sat down and talked about my future and the extensions. That stuff was starting to come together and we'll revisit that shortly." It should only be a matter of ironing out details because these two NASCAR A-listers shared that they both feel re-energized by Earnhardt's recovery and return to competition. Hendrick said he was very optimistic about Earnhardt re-joining the team and resuming racing, but conceded that he realized early on in the process, that might take an extended amount of time. And he was OK with that. "You might worry about that but I think after talking to [Earnhardt's doctor] Dr. Collins, he didn't see any reason he couldn't come back if we did it the right way," Hendrick said. "A lot of credit goes to Dale for just working hard outside of the car to get himself better, stronger. "You could just see him getting stronger every week and participating here with the team and other drivers. "I just kind of refused to accept he wasn't going to be in the car." It was a good method of coping. "First of all, we care about him as a friend and a person," Hendrick said. "That's first -- and just seeing him healthy and himself, rather than trying to rush him back into the car ... "His health is priority one. We don't want him back in the car until he's OK. And we're OK. Everyone was OK with him sitting out. Once we realized he wasn't going to be in the Chase we were OK, we wanted him for the long term. "It's a tough decision to pull the plug on the year. You didn't know that maybe he would be healed up enough to come back with a few races left. But we were very fortunate with our sponsors. They put his health first. That was never a question." Now Earnhardt is OK. Listening to him speak Friday morning, he is more than OK. The two-time Daytona 500 winner is excited about his New Year's Eve wedding, the honeymoon and the promise of more competition that awaits him in February. Junior's back. "I think with Dale back in the car and Jimmie's championship, it's going to be a nice Christmas for all of us," Hendrick said. &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;gt;