Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a Hall of Fame-worthy career on the NASCAR Cup Series, earning 26 victories, including a pair of Daytona 500 wins. However, with almost 500 fewer races, Earnhardt was considerably better on the Xfinity Series with 24 wins, including a pair of championships in 1998 and 1999.
As a team co-owner, the 46-year-old has watched his JR Motorsports team find similar success on the Xfinity Series, especially in recent years, with three championships since 2014. There have been no team wins on the Cup Series for one simple reason — Earnhardt has been resistant to the idea of fielding a team at NASCAR’s top level…until now.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has found success on Xfinity Series as team owner
Since JR Motorsports joined the Xfinity Series full-time in 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has watched the organization steadily progress in becoming one of the top teams within the series. Early on, Earnhardt was largely responsible for that success as a driver, winning a couple of races during that first year.
Since those early days, the team has been an influential part of the journey for some of the biggest names in NASCAR, including Cup champions Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. Before Elliott won his Cup title in 2020, he captured the Xfinity Series championship in 2014.
In addition to Elliott, JR Motorsports won titles in 2017 with William Byron and in 2018 with Tyler Reddick.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. changes mind and now open to owning Cup team
With success on the Xfinity Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been asked on numerous occasions whether or not he ever planned on fielding a Cup Series team. In 2008, Earnhardt said when the Xfinity cars moved to the Car of Tomorrow chassis, moving the team to the Cup Series was a possibility “if the right opportunity comes along with the right sponsorship and driver…” It never happened.
Since then, Earnhardt has always answered with a resounding no on making a move up to Cup. However, with the Next Gen car scheduled to make its debut next February, Earnhardt admitted that change has forced the team to rethink the future, and that includes the possibility of racing with the Cup Series.
“That’s thinking pretty big all around,” Earnhardt told racer.com. “But we used to say, ‘Never. Never going into the Cup Series.’ We love where we’re at in the Xfinity Series; it’s a great series to have a lot of fun in. You have days like today in the Xfinity Series, and we’ve got a great business model for that, but the new car forced us to sit down and have a conversation about whether we were missing the opportunity to go into the Cup Series in the future.”
Who might drive Cup car for JR Motorsports?
Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the JR Motorsports team are open to the idea of competing on the Cup Series, the next question becomes who might fill the seat. While Earnhardt acknowledged there is nothing definitive, and they’re still in the very early stages of discussion, he has thought about it enough to consider who might drive for the team.
“Josh [Berry] would absolutely be a driver I’d look at if we were going to build a Cup program, but I’m just trying to get us into a full-time Xfinity program with Josh. I’m just trying to get him into the Xfinity Series program where he can continue to prove himself, and if the Cup Series is in our future, maybe Josh is the driver that helps us make that happen.”
Earnhardt is a big fan of Berry and has watched the short-track specialist grow over the last decade within the JR Motorsports program. He was ecstatic and in tears when Berry won his first Xfinity Series race at Martinsville on Sunday.
It would be a fairytale story for Berry to finally make it to the Cup Series under the JR Motorsports umbrella. And to think how Earnhardt might react when he got his first win. It’s a dream scenario no one could have imagined just a few months ago but now actually might have a chance of coming true in the not-so-distant future.