Dale Earnhardt Jr. confirmed Monday that he plans to begin on-track testing in December and January to prepare for his full-time return to NASCAR competition next season.
Earlier this week, Earnhardt discussed his plans to get back behind the wheel this offseason on the Dirty Mo Radio podcast. His his team owner, Rick Hendrick, said last weekend that the driver could get back in a race car as early as next month.
Not wanting to go to Daytona "cold turkey
"We're going to go testing this offseason," he said. "Obviously I need to get in a race car. I'd love to get in a car and go run a little bit somewhere just to shake the rust off and get some confidence. I can do the basics before we ever go to Daytona.
"We'll go do that sometime this offseason. We have to squeeze it in there somewhere because I'm getting married and have my honeymoon, and I have to certainly devote proper time to (fiancée) Amy (Reimann).
"But it'll be no problem. … All signs point to us being in the car for Daytona."
NASCAR's new revision in testing policy
However, last month, NASCAR formalized a new policy that provides drivers returning from an absence due to a medical condition an opportunity for an on-track NASCAR test.
The policy reads, “At the discretion of NASCAR, a driver may be permitted a one day test after an absence involving a medical condition. The associated organization must submit a voucher for the test along with a documented requirement from the driver's physician for an on-track evaluation. Medical absence test(s) will be structured in such a way as to minimize competitive advantage, while still providing a thorough evaluation of the driver.”
Earnhardt said he was appreciative of the new rule.
“NASCAR made a rule though that if you are coming back from injury – broken bones or a concussion – they’ll give you a day where you can go to the race track and the driver can sort of sort himself out and understand if he’s ready to go back in the car, ready to go back into competition,” he said.
“That’s nice of NASCAR to give us that opportunity and we’ll take advantage of it this offseason.”
Once cleared for competition by his doctors, Earnhardt could also compete in non-NASCAR events or testing, such as Late Model cars, without violating NASCAR testing prohibition.