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NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has made a full recovery from a concussion and has been medically cleared to resume competition for the 2017 Premier Series season, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Time_Sports

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been cleared by NASCAR to resume racing after undertaking a test session at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports said in a release Thursday.

NASCAR’s most popular driver missed half of the 36-race 2016 Sprint Cup season after suffering a concussion. He plans to race in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back,” Earnhardt said in a release. “I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a car on the track. I’ll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it’s time to go to Daytona, I’ll be ready.”

Earnhardt, 42, was cleared Wednesday by Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Charlotte neurosurgeon Jerry Petty attended the test and consulted on the medical decision.

“Dale is one of the hardest-working patients I’ve ever encountered,” Collins said in a release. “He’s done everything we’ve asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver. Dale has been very open with us, and we’ve had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved.”

Earnhardt logged 185 laps in nearly five hours with crew chief Greg Ives present.

Alex Bowman, who drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in 10 Cup races last season, will race the car in the Clash at Daytona exhibition.

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