Dale Earnhardt Jr and Joe Nemechek were lucky to escape with relatively minor injuries after a couple of hefty impacts book-ended the MBNA America 400 at Dover international Speedway on the weekend.

Earnhardt Jr and the #8 Budweiser team led 48 laps before a late-race crash left the driver briefly unconscious and facing a helicopter trip to the local hospital. Having regained his senses before leaving the circuit, the fan favourite was detained for observation before being released at approximately 7pm Sunday night. His injuries were listed as a minor concussion and a bruised right foot, and he will be re-examined today [Monday] by Dr Jerry Petty before being given the all-clear to race again at the weekend.

"The track crew said he was knocked out, so they took him to the hospital and gave him a scan and make sure his head is okay, but he's fine," commented crew chief Tony Eury Sr, "I talked to him, and he's got a bump on his foot and a raspberry on his arm. Other than that, he's fine.

"We were kind of worried when he didn't get out of the car. But he said the track crew wouldn't let him get out of the car. He was trying to get out but they made him stay in the car because they thought he was unconscious when they got there. He says he wasn't, but they he was. So they just made him stay in there until they could get him out themselves."

The key moment in Earnhardt's afternoon followed his choice to take just two tyres at his final pit-stop. The Bud car, which had been fast all afternoon, suddenly became an ill-handling beast and Junior dropped from second to tenth in less than six laps. It was while he was trying to keep from going a lap behind the leader on lap 363 that the car spun and slid hard into the turn two wall, making contact with the driver's side of the car.

Nemechek, meanwhile, was the first casualty of the afternoon, when his #25 UAW/Delphi Chevy blew a tyre going into turn one. The driver had no means of controlling the car as it careered towards the wall, peeling away the right-hand side as it made contact. Although Nemechek was largely unhurt in the incident, later inspection showed that neither car nor wall were as lucky, with both requiring extensive attention before racing could resume.

"I'm not sure what happened there," Nemechek admitted, "We lost a right front tyre going into the corner, but I don't know if I ran over something or what. We'd been just a little bit tight and I'd been taking it real easy on that right front, but it just let go going into the corner.

"It's one of those deals where when I let go [of the wheel] - there was nothing I could do. I just tightened my HANS up and it was the best I'd ever felt after I hit!"