A NASCAR favorite has been cleared to return to the track.

FOX's Chris Hoenig reports: 

A nearly five-hour, 185-lap test session at Darlington was the last hurdle for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has now been given the okay from doctors to get back behind the wheel for the next NASCAR season.

The 42-year-old missed 18 races after suffering a concussion, but was still voted the most popular driver at NASCAR's annual awards:

(Earnhardt) "I want to thank the fans for all the support, all the well wishes. And it really motivated me to get healthy and it also motivated me to come back, so looking forward to next year."

Earnhardt will not drive in the non-points season opening 'The Clash' at Daytona, getting back behind the wheel for the Daytona 500 the following weekend, instead.

Chris Hoenig, FOX News.

Follow Chris Hoenig on Twitter: @Chris_Hoenig