The final lap wreck at Talladega on Sunday has effectively ended Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Sprint Cup Chase season, after it was revealed that he will miss at least the next two races of the season following a diagnosis of concussion.
In a press release from his Cup team Hendrick Motorsports, it was revealed that Earnhardt was confirmed as suffering from the after-effects of concussion following a medical examination by Dr. Jerry Petty on Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte. Earnhardt had been complaining of headaches in the intervening days since the end of Sunday's race.
Under NASCAR rules, a confirmed case of concussion requires a driver to be sidelined for a period of time on safety grounds. Earnhardt was not reported as injured on the day, and even stopped to give his team mate Jimmie Johnson a lift back to pit road after the accident.
It also emerged that it appears Earnhardt suffered an earlier concussion at the end of August after a hard crash at Kanas during official tyre tests at the resurfaced speedway. That concussion was not diagnosed at the time, but the fact this Talladega makes it two such blows to the head in six weeks is enough to concern the series medical staff into demanding that Earnhardt be parked up for the next fortnight for his own good.
As a result, Earnhardt will be absent from both this Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as week's race at Kansas Speedway. It brings to an end his record of 461 consecutive Sprint Cup race starts and will be the first NASCAR Cup race without an Earnhardt competing in it since September 1979.
It isn't clear how long Earnhardt will be out of the car. Although two weeks is the minimum, it might be much longer before he is given a medical release to compete once again.
In the Nationwide Series, driver Eric McClure had to sit out six weeks earlier this season with the lingering after-effects of a heavy concussion, also suffered at Talladega.
"There's not really a set timetable for those things and that's been the challenging thing," said McClure at the time. "That's what kept me from coming back was the lingering symptoms."
With only six races remaining in the ten-race Chase, and having already taken a hefty hit in points and positions following the last-lap wreck at Talledega on Sunday, even two races out effectively ends Earnhardt's hopes of featuring in the battle for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship.
The team has announced that Regan Smith will take over the driving duties of the #88 car in Earnhardt's absence.