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.
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.
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;
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins 2016 Most Popular Driver Award
Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns his 14th straight NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award despite missing half the season due to injury.
JR Motorsports ramps up with 2017 expansion
RELATED: Driver Tracker " On the move: Changes in store for 2017 The encore for an organization that placed both of its full-time drivers into the Championship 4 field in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase last year has the chance to be even greater. JR Motorsports has that unique possibility, an opportunity granted by not sitting still. Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier return to the fold after prosperous debut years with the team, but that's where the offseason status quo ends. JRM plans a full-court press for the upcoming XFINITY season, expanding from two to four full-time drivers in an all-out push to bring home the championship it barely missed out on in 2017. "To have that opportunity to go up against three teammates, to see the growth in our shop, to see the growth in our teams, it's really, really fun to watch," Allgaier said. "I feel like if you came back here next year and said we'd have four cars from JR Motorsports in the final four, it wouldn't surprise me at all." A four-car sweep for the Homestead-Miami finale in November would mean stellar introductions by the two newest faces in the JRM stable: up-and-coming teenager William Byron, a NASCAR Next alum, and 30-year-old vet Michael Annett , back in XFINITY after a three-year stint in NASCAR's top division. The addition of Byron, a 19-year-old prospect in the Hendrick Motorsports system, actually counts as a reunion. The Liberty University student was a former driver for JRM's Late Model program on the weekly and touring level. His teammates have already seen what he can do in top-level equipment. Byron won seven times in his rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, with only a crucial engine failure in 2016's penultimate race keeping him from the championship fight. It's the reason Sadler has touted him as "a star of the future" and why Allgaier echoed the thought, calling Byron "an absolute class act and an amazing talent." Kelley Earnhardt Miller -- who co-owns JRM with her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- spoke with tones of regret in describing how Byron got away in late 2015, snapped up by Kyle Busch Motorsports and seemingly earmarked for an upward career arc in the Toyota pipeline. That changed last August when team owner Rick Hendrick brought him back into the Chevrolet camp, cognizant of the creeping advancement in age of his Monster Energy Cup Series roster. "For that to all come back full circle, we're real excited about it," Earnhardt Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last month. "He's just a great kid and a good family, and his story is just so cool -- doing the computer racing [on iRacing] and then telling his dad he wants to race and then not racing until he was 15. It's just a good story. But Mr. Hendrick deserves the credit there, trying to look at his next moves because he's going to have some drivers that are on the retirement horizon in the next several years, so smart move for him to make all that happen." Said Byron: "I just remember their ultimate goal for me when I started racing Late Models was so I could race an XFINITY car there. In a weird way, I got back to that and it's going to be really cool to return next year." To accommodate the escalated XFINITY Series growth, which Earnhardt Miller said has maxed out the team's resources, JR Motorsports has closed its truck series operation. Cole Custer , who drove the JRM No. 00 truck the last two seasons, has since moved on to Stewart-Haas Racing 's XFINITY program. As in past years, JR Motorsports plans to run an extra XFINITY entry in select races with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne behind the wheel for two races each. But at the heart of its growth are the core four XFINITY regulars, a direction chosen in light of new driver participation guidelines that go into effect in 2017. The continuity will keep JRM from scrambling to shuffle its roster once the Chase playoff begins and the limits on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers moonlighting in the XFINITY ranks become more stringent. But the organization will still need to make inroads against stout competition, especially Joe Gibbs Racing , which won 19 of the 33 XFINITY races last season and took the other two spots in the four-driver championship round. Reminded of the heady assignment a day after last season's finale, Allgaier was unwavering. "Even with the Gibbs guys," Allgaier said. "I don't know, I just feel like with the packages that we've seen of what's a possibility for the XFINITY Series next year, the work that we're doing at the shop and the cars and just all the things that we've been working on, I really think next year's an opportunity for us at JR Motorsports."
Dale Earnhardt -Wrangler deal risky, but paid off big for Richard Childress
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Richard Childress went all in. He wagered everything -- his yesterday, his today and his tomorrow. He bet it on a late-season deal with a driver who was a maverick, and he bet it on nothing more than a sliver of a sponsorship. And at the end of that 1981 season, less than a dozen races after the relationships began, the driver and the sponsor departed. The story could have ended there. Driver gone, sponsor gone and Childress, who had tried to scratch out a living as a racer before going the ownership route, hopelessly broke and perhaps finished with NASCAR. But it didn't. Two years later, both Dale Earnhardt and Wrangler reunited with Childress. The union produced a pair of championships and a slew of wins, and set Childress and Earnhardt on a path of success rarely seen in NASCAR. "I borrowed everything I could on my home; I sold everything I had that I thought I could sell just to run Dale those 10 races," Childress said Wednesday during a celebration at Wrangler's headquarters here in Greensboro. "At the end of it, I was just in debt. I had borrowed money from some folks and everything just to run those 10 races." It's fitting that the celebration of the region's textile community, dubbed Jeansboro Day, took place this week, just as NASCAR's premier series prepares to return to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Because it was at Talladega in the summer of '81 that all the pieces first came together that would unite Childress, Earnhardt and Wrangler. "I had already talked to Dale at the track earlier that day," Childress said, "and put our deal together." Later, at the long-gone Anniston Inn just east of the track, he met with Phil Holmer of Goodyear, Wrangler officials and Joe Whitlock, who handled Earnhardt's public relations at the time. Earnhardt had won the 1980 title while driving for team owner Rod Osterlund, but when the team was sold mid-season to J.D. Stacy in '81, the driver wanted out. A deal to run the final 11 races of the season was struck, with Childress and Wrangler. By year's end, Earnhardt had managed six top-10 finishes, but the strong runs were offset by mechanical issues and parts breakage. "We ran good, but I knew we didn't have what it took to run him for a championship," Childress said. Dale Earnhardt talks with Richard Childress after the two reunited in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr . remembers that season, in particular his father's second start with Childress. "I remember the race at Bristol where you had the accident on pit road that second race that dad drove for you in 1981," Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday. "I was there. I know that because one of my most favorite photos of me and my father, they basically had these two tires stacked on top of each other and I'm standing in the wheel to get a better perspective to watch the race. I must have been 7 years old. "But Dad is standing with me and we're both watching the rest of the race; the car is in the background too damaged to continue. But my favorite photo of me and my father actually happened that day at Bristol." At the suggestion of Childress, Earnhardt left at the end of the year, taking the Wrangler funding with him to sign with veteran team owner Bud Moore. Childress hired driver Ricky Rudd, and a late deal put Piedmont Airlines on the car and helped stabilize the organization. Wrangler officials, knowing his dire financial situation, had kicked in an extra $50,000 at year's end to help Childress keep his operation upright. "That really helped me going into the following year," Childress said. What would have he done without it? "It's hard to say," he said. "I never look back. I just look ahead and that was one of those deals that helped me look ahead. I don't know where we would have been without it." Before the '84 season began, Childress said Wrangler officials wanted to reunite, with Earnhardt once again driving the No. 3 Chevrolet. The Earnhardt /Moore union had produced just three wins over the course of two years. Childress was more than willing to agree. "I'll never forget Bud told me at Riverside, 'Boy, that boy will break you,'" Childress recalled Moore telling him of Earnhardt . Instead, the pair flourished. A Legacy Continues In 2010, Earnhardt brought the brand back to the race track for a one-off race, winning the XFINITY Series event that summer at Daytona International Speedway . The car, prepared by his own JR Motorsports group, sported the No. 3 and a paint scheme similar to his father's. He continues to serve as a spokesperson for the company, and says it is "amazing" that the relationship has endured for so long. "My father first had Wrangler on the side of his car at the end of the 1980 season; he won the championship with Wrangler on the quarter panel of his car racing at Ontario in 1980 for the final race of the season," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Then he went into 1981 with Wrangler as a full-time sponsor. And we're still working together today. "I'm very proud of that relationship, very proud that it spanned so many years. Typically, relationships just don't last that long. So it says a lot about Wrangler and what they get out of the sport itself; their connection to race fans and the legacy of the Earnhardt family and Richard, everything that Richard and Dad did together."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville
RELATED: Talladega schedule " Junior injury timeline Dale Earnhardt Jr . will join NBC's broadcast team for parts of the network's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway , NBC announced Wednesday on "NASCAR America." Junior, who has not raced since July as he recovers from a concussion, will reunite with his former crew chief Steve Letarte and work alongside race announcer Rick Allen and fellow analyst Jeff Burton . Sunday will mark Earnhardt's first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasting assignment. "It gives me a chance to see the racing from a different perspective," Earnhardt Jr. told NASCAR.com. "It's an opportunity to learn something about the sport. … It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," he added with a laugh. "The only thing that made me nervous was driving race cars." NBCSN presents the second elimination race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from Talladega on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Next weekend, NBCSN presents the first race in the playoff Round of 8 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET. "With five races left in the Sprint Cup playoffs, we are thrilled to welcome Dale Earnhardt Jr . into our broadcast booth as we present two of the most unpredictable and exciting races in the Chase," said Jeff Behnke, VP of NASCAR Production for the NBC Sports Group. " Dale is incredibly respected and the viewers and fans will be treated to his perspective on two very different race tracks." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Earnhardt Jr.: I feel stronger than before
RELATED: See Junior's 2017 car " Wedding plans " Contract talks coming soon Wednesday's test at Darlington Raceway confirmed what Dale Earnhardt Jr . already suspected -- that he has recovered from a concussion suffered at midseason of 2016, and that he is fit and healthy enough to resume competing in NASCAR's premier series. While this year's incident, which caused Earnhardt to miss the final 18 races, was the second time he had been sidelined due to a concussion, Earnhardt made no bones about his eagerness to climb back in the No. 88 Chevrolet when the 2017 season gets underway. Saying he feels he has "a lot left in the tank," Earnhardt spoke about his recovery, his return and what lies ahead during a national teleconference Friday. "I wouldn't be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and be excited about driving cars if there was any risk other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday," the 42-year-old Earnhardt said. "I feel very confident in what I've seen in myself in my improvement and what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risk that I'm taking, and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race, but getting in that unfortunate accident from time to time. "We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came last year but I'm actually stronger. Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence. This isn't uncharted territory for me. I know what I need to feel personally to know that I'm as strong as I need to be and healthy. I'm certainly feeling that way. But I'm also hearing the affirmation from my doctors that I can go back and drive race cars." Earnhardt worked with Dr. Micky Collins of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh throughout his recovery. Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty was on hand at Darlington to monitor Earnhardt's progress. After a brief pre-test evaluation by Dr. Petty to determine a baseline, Earnhardt said he spent the afternoon running multiple laps around the rugged 1.366-mile track. During frequent breaks he was re-evaluated by Dr. Petty. While Earnhardt said he hoped to see the results of his responses to the stimuli of being back in a race car remain constant, they actually improved throughout the course of the day. "You sort of get acclimated and up to speed with what it takes to drive a race car," Earnhardt said. "Those systems strengthen through that process. Rather than see them sort of flat line and stay the same, which was what I was hoping for, they actually got stronger. "I felt like throughout the day I got more and more comfortable in the car ... it felt like an old shoe by the end of the day." Once the session ended, he said, "We felt really, really confident that healthwise I was 100 percent and ready to get back in the car." Although the 2017 season won't officially get underway until Feb. 26 with the running of the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Earnhardt said he will also participate in an organizational test scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . The focus of that test won't be to monitor his health, but to simply give him more time behind the wheel and help the team prepare as the new season approaches. "Testing is kind of boring but I'm ready to get more and more laps in the car," he said. "I feel real, real confident and my self-confidence is real (crucial) for me to perform well. The more I can do to help build my confidence before we go to Daytona the better so I'm excited." Team owner Rick Hendrick said having NASCAR's most popular driver cleared to return to competition was "a great Christmas present for our company and our fans." "By Dale going to the right person and working his butt off, it has made him stronger," Hendrick said. While he has been cleared to return to competition, Earnhardt said he will continue with some of the exercises and programs used during the recovery process. According to Dr. Collins, continued participation would only further strengthen those systems affected. "I'm all for that," Earnhardt said. "I want to be as sharp ... hell, maybe this is something I should have been doing all along. There is a lot of ... stuff on computers that athletes do that don't even have concussions that I have at my fingertips today. ... There is a lot of stuff that I can continue to do that will keep me sharp and keep me ready to go." He doesn't expect to be monitored by NASCAR officials any differently than any other driver going forward, and there are no safety changes being made by the team as a result of his latest incident. As confident as he was before Wednesday's test, Earnhardt admitted he was "anxious" to get behind the wheel. He said he even had trouble sleeping the night before. Any lingering concerns were erased as soon as he hit the track. "Darlington is a tough track, but the nerves were gone after about four laps and then it was ‘Let's just run, let's run some more, put some tires on and go some more,'" he said. &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;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr. to miss rest of 2016 season
RELATED: Drivers of No. 88 through the years DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . will not return to competition during the remainder of the 2016 season as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. Hendrick Motorsports officials made the announcement Friday morning, saying that Alex Bowman and four-time series champ Jeff Gordon would split time in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the remaining 12 races of the season. Gordon is scheduled to drive the No. 88 as Earnhardt's replacement this weekend at Darlington Raceway . "I wish I could return to the No. 88 team this season," Earnhardt said in a release provided by the team. "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." RELATED: Dale Jr. talks about recovery in visit to Watkins Glen : Earnhardt has missed the last six Sprint Cup Series races with lingering concussion-like symptoms. According to his Hendrick team, Earnhardt has undergone regular evaluations at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program under the direction of Dr. Micky Collins and with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt will address the media Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET at Darlington Raceway , site of Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM). He will be joined by team owner Rick Hendrick and Dr. Collins from the Pittsburgh Medical Center. You can watch that press conference here. A crash at Michigan International Speedway in June is believed to be the cause of Earnhardt's injury. While the impact of the Lap 62 incident was significant, Earnhardt said afterward that "it wasn't too bad, actually." RELATED: Video of the crash at Michigan Following an off weekend, he continued to compete in the next three Sprint Cup races, finishing 11th, 21st and 13th at Sonoma , Daytona and Kentucky, respectively. But a visit to the doctor for what Earnhardt said he believed was nothing more than severe allergies or a sinus infection led to the diagnosis of concussion-like symptoms. Bowman was tabbed to fill in for the team at New Hampshire, while former HMS driver Gordon took over for races at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Bristol. Bowman returned to the seat last weekend at Michigan due to a scheduling conflict involving Gordon. SCHEDULE: Who's driving the No. 88 in the season's final 12 races Earnhardt has continued to take part in rehabilitation activities with the hope that he would be cleared by doctors to return to competition this season. He has met with medical personnel from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program every two weeks to determine his progress. "I know how hard Dale has worked and how frustrating this is for him," Hendrick said in the team release. "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." Greg Ives, crew chief for the No. 88 Chevy, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Friday afternoon, saying that he had attended one doctor's visit with Earnhardt during his recovery. While saying he did not possess the medical expertise to fully estimate Earnhardt's progress, Ives said that his driver's determination offers hope for a return in the 2017 Daytona 500 . "Those aren't words. Those are facts, those are goals," Ives told SiriusXM. "Whatever that takes. Dale's the one who has to go through the training, the exercises and that belief of optimism. From that standpoint, all I can do is be there to support him." A top Chevrolet official also offered support for the sidelined driver. " Dale Jr.'s health and well-being is the number one priority, said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. "He is a tremendous competitor and we look forward to seeing him back behind the wheel when he is ready. Focusing on his long term health is absolutely the right thing to do. "In the meantime, we are pleased that Jeff and Alex will drive Dale Jr's No. 88 Chevrolet SS for the balance of the season." It is the second time during his Sprint Cup Series career that Earnhardt , the son of seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt , has been sidelined by a concussion. He missed two races during the latter portion of the 2012 season after a crash during testing at Kansas Speedway . 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