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Great news: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has only one more test to pass before returning to action

Great news: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has only one more test to pass before returning to action

Dale Earnhardt, revealing his two recent concussions, Oct. 11th, flanked by team owner Rick Hendrick (L) and crew chief Steve Letarte (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Hey, good-news, bad-news.
   First, the really good-news:
   Dale Earnhardt Jr. will likely be medically cleared Tuesday afternoon to race in next weekend's Martinsville 500, team owner Rick Hendrick says.
    Earnhardt, sidelined by neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty for two weeks after two concussions, one here in testing August 29th and a second October 7th at Talladega, has been in Pittsburgh, Pa., for evaluation by medical specialists.
    Hendrick says he has talked with Dr. Petty "and he said everything looked good and everything was fine."
    The final hurdle will apparently be a test Monday in a race car at the Gresham SC road course, with Dr. Petty watching.
   "Dale will be back in the car, and he (Petty) will make the decision with a final test on Tuesday (in Charlotte office).
    "So we don't foresee any problems.
      "I talked to the doctor (in Pennsylvania) myself, and everything went good in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Petty felt real good about it.
    "I will be shocked if he's not in the car (at Martinsville). Everything looks good: his attitude and the way he feels.
    "He's had no headaches since Thursday or Friday of Charlotte (Oct. 11-12). And the tests have gone real well.
    "I think Dr. Petty is just being super-cautious, and I applaud him for that."

    More good-news:
   -- A NASCAR Truck race at Eldora?
   NASCAR officials have been secretly working with Tony Stewart, and apparently Robby Gordon, on what could be a major reworking of the sport's Truck series...for at least a race or two.
   Think big, big shocks, like Gordon puts on his Baja/Dakar rigs.
   Think dirt track racing, like Stewart's Eldora.
   Heck, maybe even think Robby Gordon's SuperTrucks: http://stadiumsupertrucks.com/sst/

   Okay, don't get carried away.
   But certainly think about those big stadium crowds and that demographic.
   Just how far to go with all this, and exactly what direction, is still up in the air.
   Maybe it's just Eldora.   
   But it looks like NASCAR is willing to look outside the box here.
   That's great.
    On the other hand:
   It's down-the-stretch, only four weeks to go till the Homestead-Miami NASCAR finale....and, oh, by the way, on your way to Martinsville Speedway for next Sunday's 500, can you guys drop by Phoenix International Raceway for a couple days testing those 2013s?
   This season has dragged on since February, virtually non-stop, and teams haven't had a break since mid-July. Crews are flat exhausted, worn out, running on adrenalin.
   And NASCAR is hitting them up for more 2013 testing.
   It is painfully clear that this 2013 NASCAR stock car project is behind schedule, no question. Apparently it is way, way behind schedule.
   And Detroit manufacturers are increasingly irate about the situation.
   NASCAR has been trying to get the sport's top drivers to participate in these tests, but car makers, perhaps demonstrating their displeasure, are sending part-timers.
     That two-day test at Texas Motor Speedway 10 days ago was pretty much wasted, because teams didn't have real steel-bodied race cars. Detroit car makers are behind schedule in that.
    Here at least one car -- Brian Vickers' Toyota -- had full sheet metal, and Toyota teams say they now have full sheet metal for 2013s.
    However the specs NASCAR officials have given teams to work with have seemingly been way, way off the mark aerodynamically. And it's unclear how much more tweaking will need to be done to make these 2013s drivable, much less raceable.
   Ford's Trevor Bayne was complaining mightily after his 2013 runs here the other day.
   The Wednesday-Thursday test at Kansas Speedway was seemingly little short of a disaster the first day. Then Vickers' crew was given the go-ahead to quietly make some significant modifications for Thursday's runs; and Vickers was then suddenly fast enough to put it 10th or 15th fastest overall, when matched with the race-ready 2012s here.
   Rival car makers, however, appear miffed. And it's unclear how much political wrangling, and haranguing, is going on now behind closed doors.


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