Kyle Larson has been cleared to return to competition at next weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 22-year-old Chip Ganassi Racing driver had been forced to sit out last week's race at Martinsville Speedway after fainting following an autograph signing session on Saturday.
While Regan Smith deputised for him in the #42 car for the STP 500, Larson was kept in hospital for two nights of observation and evaluation before being discharged. Despite the battery of tests, doctors found nothing amiss with the driver and so his fainting spell has been put down to a simple case of dehydration.
"Following a thorough review of all the test results by his attending physicians and in conjunction with the medical staff from NASCAR, Kyle Larson has been medically cleared to return to all NASCAR related activities beginning at Texas," a statement from the team confirmed.
Following the announcement, Larson took part in a teleconference with journalists where he spoke about his unusual week.
"I feel great right now, and I felt perfectly fine shortly after I fainted the other day," he insisted. "I just had to get a lot of tests run on me to make sure nothing serious was wrong with me, and all the tests came back negative.
"The whole time I felt fine, and hated it that I couldn't race this weekend in the Target Chevy, but Regan did a really good job, and just got to thank all the doctors and nurses for how thorough they were with me," he continued.
Larson - who took over the full-time ride in the Ganassi #42 Chevrolet from Juan Pablo Montoya at the start of 2014 - went on to talk about Saturday and the events leading up to his sudden fainting spell.
"I felt fine before we went to the autograph session," he recalled. "I got through to the end of it, and I was just talking to one more fan, the last person there really, and just started getting light‑headed and tried to lean forward and maybe see if that fixed it, and then I passed out.
"It took me a few minutes to figure out what all had happened, and then I started piecing it all together," he continued "I don't know, it was just kind of a weird morning just because I was almost late to practice, so I just rushed myself that morning and didn't take very good care of myself throughout the day and just ended up dehydrating myself. Just got to do a better job of taking care of myself, and that should never happen again."
While dehydration had been the prime suspect from the outset, doctors also had to spend time ruling out other potential causes and underlying factors before allowing Larson to head back out on the track.
"I don't know if they kept me out because they thought I would faint again," he said. "They wanted to make sure there was nothing serious wrong with me, so they took their time and pretty much ran every test possible, I think, on me to make sure I was okay. All the tests that I took, they took a lot of time. That's the main reason why I wasn't able to get there for Sunday's race was just that there was a lot of tests to be ran.
"I don't know what specific things they tested me for, but I had stuff hooked up to me from my head to my toes, really," he laughed. "Probably the only test they didn't get in there was a math test!
"One of the first things they thought it was was dehydration, so they just ran a bunch of tests, like tons of tests on me just to make sure nothing else was wrong with my body," he explained. "It all kind of circled back to just being dehydrated.
"It sucks any time you can't race, but I was happy that they were taking the time to make sure there wasn't anything major wrong," he continued. "I wasn't upset too badly that I had to miss the race, and I guess if there's a race you've got to miss, Martinsville is my least favourite track. But yeah, I would have loved to have been there, we had a really good car all weekend long, but in the end Regan did a really good job for our Target team."
With Brian Vickers having been ruled out of racing for three months with another onset of blood clotting issues, Larson could have been forgiven for any anxiety he might have felt about the tests revealing something serious that might impact his career in a similar fashion.
"I never get scared or excited about anything, so I wasn't too scared. I was just hoping I could get released in time to race," he said. "I mean, there might have been a couple times I was nervous, maybe once. But other than that, I was fine the whole time.
"Any time you're in a hospital you get nervous," he admitted, adding that it was the first time in his adult life that he'd been in hospital as a patient. "I pretty much stayed positive through the whole thing. I never thought anything was wrong with me because I felt fine while I was sitting in the hospital, just was looking forward to when I could finally get out, looking forward to the last test that they had to run so I could get out of there.
"I was never nervous about it being the end of my career or out for a while or anything like that," he said. "I had it pretty much set in my mind that I was okay."
Larson confirmed that there were no more tests scheduled and nothing stopping him from taking part as normal in the next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race after Easter at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12.
"I believe I'm done. Yeah. I got out of the hospital and did one more test, and that was it."
RCR and Circle Sport appeal penalties
Richard Childress Racing has confirmed that it will be appealing the severe penalties handed down to its #31 team for alleged tyre tampering at Auto Club Speedway last month.
The team was given a level five penalty in NASCAR's six-tier system of handling rules infractions, the most serious yet handed out. It meant 75 point deductions in the drivers and car owners champions, a $125,000 fine and six Cup race suspension for crew chief Luke Lambert, and similar suspensions for tyre technician James Bender and engineer Philip Surgen. All three men have also been placed on NASCAR probation through to the end of the year.
No date or time has yet been set for RCR's penalty. The suspensions and fines have been deferred while the appeal is pending, although the points deductions will stand in the meantime.
Circle Sport Racing has also confirmed that it too will be making use of the appeals process, after the team received a level four penalty for an illegal and incorrectly mounted rear truck trailing arm and assembly kit discovered on Brian Scott's #33 car during pre-practice inspection at Fontana, which meant crew chief Slugger Labbe was fined $60,000 and handed a three-race suspension. Team owner Joe Falk was also docked 25 owner points. He said that the penalty was too harsh, and pointed out that the rules governing the rear suspension were changed the following week.
"We really think that we're in the right," said Falk. "We're not 100 percent right, but we're not as wrong as they're saying." He added that he expects the appeal hearing to be held after next weekend's Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Update: NASCAR has announced that the RCR appeal will be held at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina on April 16 starting at 8.30am local time. The Circle Sports appeal will be held at 2.30pm on the same day.