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Earnhardt Jr. cleared to race at Talladega

Associated Press
Published September 25, 2003

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was cleared by NASCAR on Wednesday to race this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where he's seeking a record fifth consecutive victory.

Earnhardt sustained a minor concussion and sprained his right foot in a wreck Sunday in Dover, Del.

NASCAR required him to undergo a thorough physical before he could be cleared to race. Earnhardt was examined Monday by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, and NASCAR reviewed the report Wednesday.

"My foot gets a lot better every day," Earnhardt said. "I've stayed off my feet, kept ice on it, and the swelling and soreness is much less than it was on Monday.

"It would take a heck of a lot more than this to keep me out of the race."

Working in Earnhardt's favor is his mastery of the 2.66-mile superspeedway, where he has won the past four Winston Cup events and the Busch Series race in April.

"Talladega is about intense mental focus," he said. "It's not a physical track like Bristol or Martinsville where your body takes a beating.

"I'm sure once I get in the car, this won't have an impact on me. I've been to the shop a few times, and the guys are making sure I'm comfortable in the car, so we will be ready to go."

Earnhardt was injured late in Sunday's event, crashing hard into the wall. He was briefly knocked out and taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Earnhardt finished 37th and dropped from second to fourth in the Winston Cup points standings.

NASCAR's policy of medically clearing a driver was put in place partially because of Earnhardt, who admitted last season he thought he had lingering effects of a concussion in several races.

Since then, NASCAR has required all drivers to receive written clearance from a doctor approved by the sanctioning body before the individual can compete.

TEAMWORK: Multicar organizations with research and development teams have an advantage - with additional tests and teammates - especially at restrictor-plate tracks.

This weekend, Hendrick Motorsports will run David Green again in his No.60 Chevrolet. John Andretti will drive No.75 for Richard Childress Racing.

Buckshot Jones will guide Michael Waltrip's No.00 Chevrolet, with the car and engine supplied by Dale Earnhardt Inc. And Jason Jarrett, 27, will make his debut in the No.98 Robert Yates Racing Ford.

"It's exciting to have Jason to make his inaugural run at Talladega," said the driver's father, Dale Jarrett, who is in No.88 for Yates.

It will be an eye-opening experience.

Jason Jarrett is second in ARCA points and has driven in the Busch Series.

COMMITTED TO PETTY: DaimlerChrysler officials denied reports that Petty Enterprises was losing its top-tier status with Dodge.

Though there have been concerns regarding the performance of the No.43 and 45 cars this season, Dodge is committed to honoring the remaining years on Petty's contract.

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