Like everyone else, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has watched the stunning developments from Tokyo, with American gymnast Simone Biles withdrawing from the competition due to her mental health. The two-time Daytona 500 winner can relate and admitted as much on the latest episode of his podcast talking about the fears and anxiety he’s facing leading up to his Xfinity Series race in September at Richmond.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. always connected to Xfinity Series
While Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a Hall of Fame career in the NASCAR Cup Series with 26 wins, including a pair of Daytona 500 trophies, his connections to the Xfinity Series run deep.
He launched his NASCAR career there in 1996, running a part-time schedule. He won his first Xfinity race in 1998 and claimed six more victories that same year en route to winning his first season championship. Earnhardt added six more wins in 1999 and earned his second consecutive season title.
At the turn of the century, he transitioned to a full-time Cup ride. While his Cup career took off, Earnhardt stayed connected to the Xfinity Series through limited race appearances and the launch of his JR Motorsports team in 2006, which currently fields four teams in the series.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits he’s scared about Richmond race
In the latest episode of the Dale Jr. Download during the “Ask Jr.” segment, a fan asked if Earnhardt was excited or nervous about his upcoming race at Richmond. The 46-year-old, who is always candid with his responses, was no different this time.
“Phew. I’m scared. Yeah, I’m nervous. I’m scared,” Earnhardt repeated. “I ain’t been in a car. I don’t know how it’s going to go. It’s always an absolute unknown and my heart will be beating out of my chest the minute before I get in the car. I don’t think there’s any practice, so we’ll just hit the ground running. Drop the green flag and start racing. Hopefully, I don’t make any mistakes. Not being in the car and getting out on the racetrack with the rest of the competitors, kind of finding my place, and not making a mistake will be really critical in the first 40 laps of the race until I can settle in and things start to make sense.”
Earnhardt said the lack of seat time and his age both cause him some anxiety when thinking about Richmond.
“Hopefully, I can get through that first stage of the race without any real mistakes or issues. That will be on my mind. Because as you get older, I think it becomes harder to know where things are around you. When you drive a race-car every single week you don’t even need to look in the mirror to know where that guy is behind you or beside you. You don’t even need to look. It’s a sense. It’s automatic. You can drive right out the windshield the whole race, only relying on the information from your spotter and everything else without even looking around to see where the cars are behind you and beside you. I think getting back in the car for the first time in a long time that won’t be so natural. I hope I don’t make any mistakes and run anybody or myself into the fence or anything like that.”
Achieved Xfinity Series success in one-off appearances
While it’s understandable that Earnhardt has concerns considering he hasn’t raced competitively in more than a year, his successful track record in the past driving in one-offs with the Xfinity Series reveal it’s the competition that should be worried.
Earnhardt has raced three times since 2018 and each time has earned a top-5 finish. The past two years, he earned fifth at Homestead and Darlington, respectively. In 2018, at Richmond, where he will compete on September 11, Earnhardt finished fourth for his best finish in retirement.
For Earnhardt, externally, he may express concern about getting back behind the wheel. But as the recent past indicates, he knows he’s more than capable of racing competitively and running near the front. His competitors know that as well and will be doing everything they can to beat one of the most iconic names in the history of the sport.