Probably the worst birthday gift a driver could wish for.
NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., learned that, for his 38th birthday, he will not race in this weekend's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
He suffered a concussion in the big 20 car pile-up at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon, according to the Associated Press (h/t SI). This will be the first race without an Earnhardt since September of 1979.
Earnhardt, Jr. has been in every race since the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1999. The concussion will also keep Dale from running at Kansas in two weeks.
One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. Regan Smith, just released from Furniture Row Racing, will pilot the No. 88 Diet Dew/National Guard Chevrolet in place of Earnhardt, Jr.
Smith's vacated ride at Phoenix Racing will be driven by newly-reinstated driver, A.J. Allmendinger.
This is not the first concussion in Dale's career. Back in 2002 at Auto Club Speedway, Dale suffered a concussion in the late stages of the race when he and Kevin Harvick made contact, sending the No. 8 Chevy head-on into the outside wall. It was that wreck that led to the mandatory ride for all drivers to the infield care center.
It's unfortunate for Earnhardt, Jr. fans who were excited to see whether or not he could win one of these final six races in the season. Now they've just got to pull for the race car, and see if Regan Smith can win in these two races.