Hendrick confirms Earnhardt Jr. is cleared for Martinsville

Team owner Rick Hendrick revealed on Sunday at Kansas Speedway that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to his driving duties in the No. 88 Chevrolet next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Earnhardt Jr., who is NASCAR's most popular driver, has missed the last two Sprint Cup Series races -- Charlotte and Kansas -- after suffering two concussions within a six-week period. The Hendrick Motorsports driver sustained his first concussion during a crash while participating in the Aug. 29 Goodyear tire test at the newly-repaved Kansas track. Two weeks ago, Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a 25-car crash on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway.

Complaining of headaches following his Talladega crash, Earnhardt Jr. was examined by Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon, in Charlotte two days after Talladega. He underwent several tests, including an MRI, and therefore was diagnosed with a concussion. Earnhardt Jr. was advised to sit out at least the next two races.

Last Tuesday, Earnhardt Jr. was examined by specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he underwent extensive tests.

Earnhardt Jr. is one of the 12 drivers in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"Dale came through with flying colors, and everything is great," Hendrick said during ESPN's broadcast of the Sprint Cup race at Kansas. "He can't wait to get back in the car, and he's really anxious. We're anxious to get him back, so next week, he's been cleared to race at Martinsville."

Regan Smith has substituted for Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car at both Charlotte and Kansas.