Dale Earnhardt, Jr. cleared to drive 2017 NASCAR season

Dale Earnhardt Jr. holds up the trophy with fiance Amy Reimann, right, after winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, July 6, 2015, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(WSPA) – Dale Earnhardt, Junior will return to NASCAR competition in 2017 after being medically cleared to drive following a concussion that cut the just completed season short.

Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of the 2016 NASCAR season beginning with the July 17 event at New Hampshire. Hendrick Motorsports announced he was cleared to drive after completing a test session at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday afternoon.

“I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back,” Earnhardt said in a written statement. “I expected things to go really well yesterday, 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.”

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports, completed 185 laps during a nearly five-hour session.

He was cleared Wednesday evening by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty attended the test at the 1.366-mile South Carolina racetrack.

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