Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making what could be his final NASCAR start in the upcoming Richmond XFINITY Series race, but he still has to tend to his day job that weekend.
Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems genuinely excited in his new role at NBC Sports — you only needed to hear his voice in the closing laps at the Brickyard to verify that — it’s not surprising to hear him say he still has “a little itch to scratch” after being a NASCAR driver for so much of his life.
He’ll get a chance to revisit that part of him on Friday, Sept. 25, when he hops behind the wheel of the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway. It’s something fans and the track have been looking forward to for some time, ever since Junior revealed this would likely be his only race of 2018.
No one expects Earnhardt will have any trouble adjusting to short track life again, but the catch this time is that he also has to do his day job too.
“I’ll be a busy man, shuffling between my responsibilities with NBC and covering practices and qualification and so forth for the Cup event, and then doing the practices and driving the car on the XFINITY side.,” Earnhardt said in a media conference call on Wednesday. “It’ll be a busy weekend for me. Not something I want to be doing often, but there’s a little itch to scratch, and I’m looking forward to having this opportunity to race a little bit.”
While Earnhardt hasn’t made any more starts since the NASCAR Cup Series finale last year at Homestead, his last XFINITY Series appearance also came at Richmond. Dale Jr. finished ninth there in the fall 2017 event, which was won by Brad Keselowski.
There won’t be any Cup Series drivers to contend with this time, as the Go Bowling 250 will be the first XFINITY Series playoff race. But since Earnhardt isn’t running for points in any series this year, he can enter the race along with the XFINITY regulars. The postseason field for that series won’t be set until the race this weekend at Las Vegas, but it appears that three JR Motorsports drivers, Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Matt Tifft, will qualify to run for the championship.
Obviously, Earnhardt will just be looking to see if he can pull off a win (like he has in this race three times before, most recently in 2002) and give what’s sure to be a bigger than normal crowd one final thrill. As the days tick down to his brief NASCAR return, even the seemingly mundane details involved in getting ready are pumping him up.
“Actually, today I just came from the shop, sitting in the car and getting the seat mounted right, getting the headrest mounted, getting all that stuff prepared,” Earnhardt said. “The car looks great, the car’s almost ready to go. Doing those type of activities to prepare for the race gets you really excited about it, gets you looking forward to it. So I’m prepared, I have my bag ready to go, my helmet, my suit and everything it it.”