Earnhardt Jr ready to race, Truex to stand by

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hopes that the second degree burns affecting six percent of his body will not prevent him from finishing the NEXTEL Cup Series event at Loudon this weekend. Just in case, protégé, Martin Truex, Jr. will stand by to take over...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hopes that the second degree burns affecting six percent of his body will not prevent him from finishing the NEXTEL Cup Series event at Loudon this weekend. Just in case, protégé, Martin Truex, Jr. will stand by to take over driving duties if conditions inside of the No. 8 Chevy become uncomfortable for Earnhardt.

Earnhardt suffered burns to his neck, chin, chest and lower extremities last weekend during a pre-race warmup crash at Infineon Raceway for the American Le Mans series. The DEI team is worried that heat will aggravate Earnhardt's condition, and has rigged additional cooling systems inside the car to aide the 29-year-old driver in completing the race.

According to the NASCAR rulebook, however, all Earnhardt really needs to do is finish one lap inside the race car for NEXTEL Cup Series points to reflect under his name on the scoreboard. Currently, Earnhardt trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 105 points. But with the new system in place this season (scoring reset after 26th event of year), it is not as crucial to remain at the top of the heap through the last few events leading to the "Chase for the Championship".

It may serve the No. 8 team better to let Earnhardt out of the car after a few laps, and assure that he is healing properly, and physically prepared for the grueling stretch of races through the end of the season. Even if Truex did not garner a top ten result at NHIS, Earnhardt would more than likely retain second place in rankings. He has a cushion of 137 points over third places Jeff Gordon.

If Earnhardt does tough it out, he should garner a decent finish at NHIS. Last season, he earned two top-six finishes at the one-mile raceway, beating his previous average finish of 23rd.

After the wreck in Sonoma, Earnhardt was airlifted to University of California-Davis Medical Center for treatment. He was held overnight, and released Monday to return home to Mooresville, North Carolina where he plans to see a specialist Thursday to have his wounds checked before traveling to New Hampshire.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr.