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EARNHARDT JR. LEAVES HOSPITAL, WILL RACE AT LOUDON

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was released from the hospital Monday, one day after being burned on the face and legs in a crash during a warm-up for an American Le Mans Series race.

The NASCAR star, son of the late Dale Earnhardt, was flown to the University of California-Davis Medical Center on Sunday after the car he was driving crashed and turned into a fireball at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.

Earnhardt was treated for second-degree burns on the insides of both legs and on his chin, according to a statement from the hospital. The burns covered about 6 percent of his body.

The terrifying accident came at the beginning of a morning practice, when Earnhardt lost control of his Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. The car spun and slid into a concrete barrier.

The crash broke the fuel filler neck, where gas is poured into the fuel tank, and sparked the fire. Earnhardt was able to get out of the car on his own.

While Earnhardt's injuries weren't serious, any wreck he is involved in always brings up memories of the last-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500 that killed his father, easily the most popular driver of his era.

Steve Crisp, a spokesman for Dale Earnhardt Inc., said the younger Earnhardt will compete in next weekend's Nextel Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. Earnhardt, second in the Cup standings behind Jimmie Johnson, was supposed to be enjoying a weekend off from his regular series for a rare chance to race without pressure.

In an interview Friday at Infineon Raceway, Earnhardt Jr. was asked what his goal was for competing in the ALMS event.

"There is a quest for me to learn and become better," Earnhardt Jr. said. "My goal is to take what I learn and apply it to my Cup experience and see if I can become a better Cup driver.

"I just have a lot of polishing to do to become a better road-course driver, and this is where I'm doing it. I didn't have to think twice about it when they gave me the opportunity."

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