Like the rest of the NASCAR world, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is enjoying the offseason and looking forward to 2022 and the debut of the Next Gen car. However, this week, the two-time Daytona 500 winner learned of a news development for next season that could be problematic for his lone Xfinity Series appearance at Martinsville and likely won’t be resolved until he has an awkward conversation with driver Brandon Brown.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. competing in Xfinity Series with TJ Majors as spotter
Since retiring from full-time Cup competition after the 2017 season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has made it a tradition to race once each year in the Xfinity Series with a couple of goals in mind: refresh his mind on what it feels like to get behind the wheel while understanding the ever-evolving technologies of the race car, and enjoy the experience.
He enjoyed himself plenty in his first three post-retirement races, finishing in the top 5 each time. However, the 2021 performance was lackluster, and he finished a disappointing 14th at Richmond.
During all of his one-off races, Earnhardt has always turned to a familiar face in longtime friend and spotter TJ Majors to work with him. Each time, in order for it to happen, the former driver asked for and received permission from the spotter’s boss, legendary team owner Roger Penske.
“Every year that I’ve ran a race, they’ve allowed TJ to come over and spot for me,” Earnhardt said on the Dale Jr. Download. “I know how protective these teams are just of their people, their information. And we’ve reached out to Roger in the past just directly to ask him. It’s been kind of cool because it’s really the first line of communication I’ve ever had with the legend Roger Penske was to ask him to let TJ spot for me. So thank you to Penske and everybody there that’s involved in all those decisions to allow TJ to do it because they could just say no.”
Brandon Brown will need to be called for it to happen in 2022
As Earnhardt pointed out, Penske could have said no, but never did. While it was always a nice gesture, it was also a practical move on Penske’s part. Majors, who works as a spotter in the Cup Series for Brad Keselowski and Hailie Deegan in the Truck Series, didn’t spot for any Xfinity Series team. He was always available when Earnhardt asked.
However, that’s changing this coming season, with Majors serving as a spotter for Brandon Brown in 2022. During a special holiday edition episode of the Door Bumper Clear podcast, Majors talked about his new job working with Brown, including the potential conflict looming on the horizon with Earnhardt’s lone Xfinity race happening at Martinsville in early April.
“The big question is does Dale Jr. call Brandon and ask him if I can go spot a race for him. That’s going to be the question,” Majors admitted.
Dale Jr. gets upset at Majors during 2021 race
While it’s uncertain whether or not Dale Earnhardt Jr. will work with Majors in 2022, if 2021 was their last time together, it was certainly a race to remember. Although Earnhardt admittedly likes to have fun when he straps in behind the wheel, he also takes it seriously and has a routine he likes to follow.
“Last lap was 25:29,” Majors told his driver over the radio during the early part of the race at Richmond.
“I don’t care. I don’t know what the f*** the lap times mean,” an agitated Earnhardt told his spotter.
“10-4,” Majors answered.
“I don’t know what a good lap is. So what the f*** kind of information is that TJ?” the driver asked. “We talked about this for two decades.”
A few minutes later, Earnhardt clarified what he needed.
“I guess TJ, you can say good lap if you want to, but I don’t know what the lap times mean,” he said.
“Well, that was a good lap,” Majors answered. “That was a 23 about a tenth better than what you’ve been doing.”
“OK,” the driver replied.
The fact that Majors is even considering a return to spot for Earnhardt after his 2021 experience shows just how strong of a relationship the two men have with each other. Now the question is whether or not Earnhardt makes the call to Brandon Brown. And if he does, what is Brown’s answer?