Jeff Gordon

Earnhardt says health top priority as he prepares for return

It took less than four laps for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to feel back at home in his race car. His test this week at Darlington Raceway was the final hurdle for NASCAR's most popular driver to earn clearance to compete next season.

The test ended months of speculation — should Earnhardt retire? Was the risk of suffering yet another concussion too great? — and a detailed medical plan helped get him back on the track when many thought he should just step away for good.

"When you get something taken away from you, you certainly realize what it's worth," Earnhardt said Friday. "I'm feeling recharged and energized about coming back ready to race. I've got a...

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