Dale Earnhardt Jr. is at a crossroads. He still enjoys racing, but he doesn’t want to compete more than once a year. He can’t even guarantee he will race again.
After finishing fifth in the Hooters 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway while racing for his own team, JR Motorsports – his first race since last August — Earnhardt sounded torn.
“I think right now, it’s just going to stay the same,” Earnhardt told reporters. “I don’t want to do any more, that’s for sure. I can say that with confidence. I don’t know how many more of these I’ll do. This might be the last one. And this ain’t no tease or anything like that. I’m not trying to be annoying about that. It’s a lot of a commitment, and I just, I don’t know.
“I don’t know if it’s getting to the point where I’ve gotta decide whether I’m helping things or I’m not helping the team. How can I help the team in other ways? I don’t know. I really enjoy it. I really do. But I think there’s gotta be a point to where I decide to make the change to broadcasting entirely, and with that said though, being in the car today, I certainly learned a ton that’s going to help me in the booth. I’ve just gotta think about it, you know? I certainly don’t want to run more. One is plenty.”
Due to restrictions from the novel coronavirus pandemic, the 45-year-old Earnhardt had no practice or qualifying for the second-tier Xfinity Series race. It was his third straight top-five finish. Yet, he still told Fox Sports, “my time is running out.” Earnhardt retired from the NASCAR Cup Series after the 2017 season, but has still taken part in the Xfinity Series once a year.
“I was really, really nervous. I started to think to myself, ‘How can it be possible for somebody to race in any of the top-3 series without having any laps and not having driven a car in a year?’” he said. “I know I got some laps, and I’ve been around for a while. But I was real nervous! I really was because I thought I knew kind of what the drivers’ mindset might be in these types of situations over the last several weeks with no laps, no practice, just a lot of pressure.
“But I really underestimated. It’s harder than I thought. It’s more anxiety than I would have imagined, and so I was a little difficult to be around the last couple days, just having the anxiety of it.
“I worked myself up for the last 72 hours, and we run better than I thought we would,” Earnhardt went on. “When that race started, we didn’t have great speed. The car wasn’t turning really well. But as we would run, we just would pass ’em! I don’t know that the car drove better as the race went on, but we just could hang in there and bank some time on older tires.”