NASCAR officials announced today that NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has received medical clearance to race this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Per NASCAR policy, Earnhardt was required to undergo a thorough physical examination after sustaining injuries during an incident last Sunday at Dover International Speedway, in order to return to competition - Dale Jr. suffered a minor concussion and a sprained right foot in the crash.

Earnhardt was examined this week by a recognised specialist - Dr. Jerry Petty, and was given clearance yesterday [Wednesday] to compete.

"My foot gets a lot better every day," said Dale Jr, "I usually use all of this ice to keep the Budweiser cold, but 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 heckuva lot more than this to keep me out of the race.

"Plus, Talladega is about intense mental focus - it's not a physical track like Bristol or Martinsville where your body takes a beating. I drove a Busch Series race with only one arm [he suffered a broken collarbone in practice at Milwaukee, but drove the following day to a third place finish in July, 1999], so 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.

"I love going to Talladega, and I've had the luxury to wheel a really, really fast car there every time. Our success shows the strength of the entire Dale Earnhardt Inc. organisation. We have always focused on the restrictor-plate races, from Richie Gilmore's engines to the guys who work on the bodies hour-after-hour in the wind tunnel and in the shop, and it's a total effort.

"It's very, very simple: get to the front and stay there. You don't worry about all of the action behind you if you're ahead of 'em. Because we changed an engine in April, we started at the back. Being involved in the early crash [on lap four], even slightly, was more evidence to prove that strategy. It didn't look too good, but my guys worked on the car until it was competitive again. It may have been my most gratifying Talladega win. It was very satisfying, because it took the entire team to get me into a position to drive that car to the finish line."