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Tests remaining before Earnhardt can return

October 21, 2012, David Caraviello,

Hendrick clarifies remarks after announcing Junior had been cleared for Martinsville

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Rick Hendrick spoke too soon.

The car owner clarified during Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway that Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has two tests remaining before he can return to the race car, a closed on-track shakedown at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia on Monday, and an office visit with neurologist Dr. Jerry Petty on Tuesday.

*Video: Rick Hendrick talks Junior

"Maybe I just heard what I wanted to hear."


Earlier Sunday, Hendrick told reporters that Earnhardt had been cleared to race next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR's most popular driver has sat out two Sprint Cup events after suffering two concussions within six weeks, the most recent in a final-lap crash at Talladega on Oct. 7. Regan Smith has been piloting the No. 88 car while the regular driver is out.

Hendrick soon realized he had gotten ahead of himself.

"I've been out here at the dealerships, and I have talked to the doctors with Dale, and he said everything looked good, everything looked fine," Hendrick said. "However ... there's a closed test Monday that Dr. Petty will attend. Dale will be back in a car, and they'll make the decision with a final test on Tuesday."

That final test will be an evaluation in Petty's office in Charlotte, N.C. Should Earnhardt pass both, Petty will notify NASCAR that the driver is clear to return. On Tuesday, Earnhardt visited a concussion specialist in Pittsburgh. He suffered from dizziness immediately after the Talladega crash and headaches in the following days, but Hendrick said Earnhardt's symptoms have abated in the time since.

"I will be shocked if he's not in the car," Hendrick said. "Everything looks good, his attitude and the way he feels. He's had no headaches since the Thursday and Friday of Charlotte, and the tests have gone real well. I think Dr. Petty is just being cautious, and I applaud him for that."

Hendrick said he was aware that Earnhardt had an on-track test planned, but didn't realize Petty would be attending. "I didn't read my emails this morning, and kind of got ahead of myself," he said. "Maybe I just heard what I wanted to hear."