Earnhardt's return to racing marks the end of a lengthy recovery from a concussion. The injury occurred in an on-track crash back in June that ultimately led the driver to retire for the season. The other 18 races in the season were covered by Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon.
With Earnhardt Jr. coming back in 2017, semi-retired Jeff Gordon will go on to race the new Cadillac endurance car. Alex Bowman will also get to race for Hendrick Motorsports at The Clash at Daytona on February 18, a non-points exhibition race before the official start of the 2017 season. As for Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 return, that will be on February 26.