Source: USA Today Ridiculously popular driver in NASCAR, but nowhere near the talent of his late father. Posted in case anyone is watching tonight's Southern 500, I'm sure they will be talking about it endlessly Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 'I definitely don't belong in a race car today' Mike Hembree, Special for USA TODAY Sports4:29 p.m. EDT September 4, 2016 USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Gluck explains why Dale Earnhardt Jr. is done for the season and which drivers will replace him during his absence. USA TODAY Sports USA TODAY Current and former drivers, fans stand by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, 41, hasn’t raced since July 9. His latest problems apparently stem from a crash at Michigan International Speedway June 12 (although he raced after that crash). Earnhardt has missed six races and will not drive in the season’s remaining 12 races.Jeff Gordon will replace him in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, and Gordon and Alex Bowman will split driving duties in the No. 88Chevrolet for the rest of the year. “I think it’s the right decision considering how I feel,” Earnhardt said. “I definitely don’t belong in a race car today by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know how long this process is going to take. We want to be healthy and able to compete at some point.” USA TODAY Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes right call, sets example for next generation Dr. Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program is a part of Earnhardt’s treatment team. He participated in a Darlington Raceway press conference Sunday with Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick, Earnhardt’s team owner. Collins spoke in stark terms about Earnhardt’s condition. “Our goal is to see him become a human being again,” Collins said. “He’s feeling better. He can tolerate a lot more. Our second goal is Dale becoming a race car driver again. I’m very confident we’re moving in that direction. “The systems that are injured for Dale are the systems that make Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt — his ability to sustain focus and stabilize his vision when he moves his head and interpret complex visual information. It’s a different set of skills than any of us have. “When I first saw Dale a month and a half ago, I can tell you he was pretty sick. He was having problems with the vestibular (inner ear and brain) system, with the ocular (vision) system and with some anxiety and mood issues that are very much associated with these problems. He has made progress where we can match treatments that can treat those different problems. Over the last two and a half weeks, the fruits of that labor are paying off.” USA TODAY SPORTS Dario Franchitti texting Dale Earnhardt Jr. about concussions Earnhardt, who wore prescription glasses to the press conference, has said he has had problems with vision and balance. He described Sunday “going to Target or somewhere and I have symptoms and might stumble across an aisle or need more sidewalk than a normal guy.” He described feeling relatively comfortable at home “but losing about 20 percent when I leave the house.” Earnhardt is working daily on exercises to improve his vision and balance. USA TODAY Experts stress caution with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s future Hendrick said he and his team are planning on Earnhardt’s return in February 2017 and the start of next season. “He (Earnhardt) is like a member of the family,” Hendrick said. “I care about him as a person probably as much or more than as a race car driver. I’ve been concerned. I’ve been surprised how hard he’s worked. I want him to race for me as long as he can. The seat is his.” A decision on Earnhardt’s availability for the new season probably will need to be made no later than December because of sponsor concerns and the need to choose a replacement if he can’t return.