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Earnhardt passes big test after wreck

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. shook off a hard hit in last week's Nationwide Series race to start the Daytona 500 the next day.

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For someone who's coming off a concussion, it was a big step.

``I was real happy I was able to pass a personal test, I guess,'' Earnhardt said from Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. ``When you have concussions, sometimes they're easier to get the second, third, fourth time around, so we survived that one. We'll try to move on and not get in anymore wrecks.''

Earnhardt made the Chase for the championship last season, but finished 12th after missing the final two races due to post-concussion symptoms.

He had his health tested right away this season after hitting the wall hard during a last-lap crash in the Daytona Nationwide race last Saturday.

The 12-car melee started as the cars headed toward the checkered flag and leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski, setting off a chain reaction. Rookie Kyle Larson's car went airborne during the wreck and flew into the fence, injuring more than two dozen fans.

Earnhardt tried to steer clear of the carnage in front of him, but was blocked and got sent into the wall hard. He was cleared in the medical center after the wreck and returned the next day for the Daytona 500, where he finished second for the third time in four years after a late charge.

``I was concerned just how my body was going to react to that,'' Earnhardt said. ``I felt pretty good after the wreck and that evening and the next day felt awesome, and was able to get in the car. Everything came naturally and (I) was able to put together a good race.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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