Currently in 11th place in points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a longshot to win this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Sadly, his run for 2012 is now officially over, as the Hendrick Motorsports driver has been diagnosed with a concussion, suffered in Sunday’s last lap crash at Talladega.

As ESPN reports, Earnhardt will be required to sit out the next two races, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Kansas Speedway, before he’s eligible to return to the series on October 28 at Martinsville, West Virginia.

Missing two races in this year’s Chase for the Championship likely means that Earnhardt will finish the season in 12th place, last among drivers vying for the title. It also means that his streak of 461 consecutive starts, fifth-longest in Sprint Cup Series history, will be broken.

Though Earnhardt appeared to be fine following Sunday’s melee, doctors diagnosed him with the concussion on Wednesday. A team meeting is planned today to discuss the driver’s injury, which is his second concussion of the season.

Earnhardt also suffered a concussion during tire testing at Kansas Speedway on August 29, when he hit the retaining wall following a right front tire failure. While the driver is tentatively cleared to return to the series by month end, the purpose of today’s meeting is likely to discuss the risks versus rewards of continuing to race in 2012.

With the Sprint Cup Championship now out of reach, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will sit out the remainder of this year’s NASCAR schedule. Whatever the team’s decision is, we wish Earnhardt all the best for an expedient and full recovery.