In the refurbished Chevrolet Nova-NASCAR Jaski's Silly Season Site, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will lead the XFINITY field at Darlington. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has confirmed that he would lead the XFINITY Series field at Darlington Raceway in his father's refurbished Chevrolet Nova. This is the first time since 1999 that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has led a NASCAR Sprint Cup series race.
Darlington Raceway President Geoff Beebe said, "We are excited to have Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Chevy join us for the 61st running of the Doak Walker Award winner. We know Junior will bring home another victory this season with these new rules packages."
Junior commented, "I'm looking forward to getting back on the track at Darlington. My dad won here back in 1989 so it's going to be special to be leading the field there in his name. I've heard great things about this new package and I can't wait to get out there and see what we can do."
The No. 88 team has five wins this season - three by Earnhardt Jr. and two by Clint Bowyer - with the other coming from Matt Kenseth. The driver combination of Junior and Bowyer has four victories together this year with one each from Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has returned to the track and competed in one second-tier Xfinity Series race every season for his own team, JR Motorsports, after retiring from full-time NASCAR racing in 2017. He will return to the track this year with his new crew chief Mike Hillman Jr..
Earnhardt's father was one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history, winning seven championships over an 11-year period from 1973 to 1983. Dale Jr. himself is a four-time champion (1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002). He also has three victories in the Cup Series.
In addition to competing in races with his own team, Earnhardt has also driven for his family's eponymous organization in various events throughout his career. His first race as a driver for his family company came at age 17 when he substituted for his father in the final laps of the 1996 Daytona 500. He went on to finish fourth behind winners Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. This was also the first race where there were two brothers named in the top five; Carl Edwards was third and Kasey Kahne finished fifth.
The following year, Earnhardt made his full-time debut at age 18 in the now-defunct Busch Series. He drove the #3 Miller Lite Dodge for his family's team, Evernham Motorsports.
The No. 15 car will be driven by NASCAR's 15-time most popular driver.
He is expected to return to the sport at some point this year with a goal of returning to the top series at least once more before pursuing other opportunities.
Earnhardt is the son of the late Dale Earnhardt, who was one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history. He is also the member of the Earnhardt family to have never won a championship.
Dale Jr. came close several times but failed to capture the title during his career. He is only behind Jimmie Johnson as the highest-ranked driver not to win a championship.
After winning seven races between 2004 and 2010, Earnhardt went on to lose over 100 races due to injuries. He returned to the track in 2015 and hasn't looked back since then. This season he has won two races so far.
He announced his retirement at the end of the 2017 season but changed his mind soon after.
Here are the other members of the Earnhardt family: Michael, Mark, Steve, and Ty.
Junior is back in the driver's seat. While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not raced at the highest level of NASCAR since 2017, the fan favorite has spent time on the Xfinity circuit, driving a single race every year for JR Motorsports since 2018. He will continue to do so through at least 2020 with no end date set.
In 2014, after his father died in a racing accident, Junior won the first two races of the season before breaking his leg in a crash at Atlanta. He returned in 2015 and had one top-five and six top-10s in 17 races. In 2016, he missed most of the season due to health issues related to his battle with depression. He returned part-time in 2017 but was released by Joe Gibbs Racing after nine races because he didn't have enough experience to be competitive. He has not returned to the sport since then.
When he does return, it isn't clear if he will still be driving for JGR or another team. When asked about this last year, Junior said he would rather not talk about it until it happens. It is possible that he could return to JGR if they get back into the winner's circle but more likely that he will join another team. Either way, we know he wants to keep racing so there is a chance he will find a team that allows him to drive regularly once again.
Despite claiming that his NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway last June was his final NASCAR participation, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has stated that he would return for another one-time appearance in 2021 behind the wheel of the # 8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, the team he co-owns. He has also indicated that he would like to continue working with sponsor ECR Engines on occasion.
In addition to being a co-owner of JR Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr. also has equity interest in ECR Engines, which builds engines for various racing disciplines including NASCAR. The company was founded by former Hendrick Motorsports engineer Eric Everard who has since moved it out of Hendersonville into its own building.
When asked about running his own team in the future, Earnhardt said: "That's definitely something that we'll talk about down the road when we have some time. Right now, I've got my hands full trying to win races and try to get back into the championship hunt."
He went on to say that he enjoys working with ECR Engines and hopes to continue doing so in some capacity. "I think it's important for us to give back to the community that has given so much to me and my family," he said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has raced in one NASCAR race every year in the Xfinity Series since retiring from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of the 2017 season, driving for JR Motorsports, the team he co-owns. He won his first race as a driver in that series at Talladega in April 2018.
However, he does not plan to stop racing in other series. "I might just do some things this summer where I go out and race some stuff," he said. "Who knows?"
He did not specify what races or series he would be competing in but it is likely that he will continue to test equipment for various teams. In addition, he has expressed an interest in returning to the Indianapolis 500 in May 2019 as a driver or crew chief, which could potentially be arranged through these tests/projects.
Furthermore, he has stated that he would like to compete in more events than just the two races he currently attends. "I'd love to do more," he said. "That's kind of my goal here this year, is to try and get into more events than just the two that we go to now."
He finished second at Las Vegas last month behind Juan Pablo Montoya (who was driving for Team Penske) and ahead of Tony Kanaan (also driving for JRM).