CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What’s next for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after this season?
Even he’s not quite sure. He knows he’ll drive in at least two NASCAR Xfinity races in 2018, but there are no other specific plans for the 14-time most popular driver who has played a key role in helping the sport behind the scenes.
“I do have ambition to work,’’ Earnhardt said Tuesday at a press conference at Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m not going to quit working. There’s a feeling of being an asset to something. I don’t have to be the guy holding the trophy. Being a part of that success, I really enjoy. I really enjoy making people happy and doing stuff as a team.
“I think I can replicate that in the next chapter of my life. Certainly excited about all the things we’ve had going on with the (car) dealership (in Tallahassee, Florida) and Whisky River. We’re growing the Whisky River business into airport locations.’’
The business side of Earnhardt is not new to his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.
“He loves finding talent, whether its drivers, whether its crew, office people,’’ she said. “Those things are very satisfying to him, and they’re very satisfying to me. Just over the last 18 to 24 months, he’s been so much more involved on the business front of everything. That’s just a maturity about him. What you see there and that excitement is to be more involved. We have to put his Sunday job first. At the end of this year ,we’ll be able to reprioritize things.’’
Car owner Rick Hendrick sees a key role for Earnhardt after this season.
“I’m excited about this second chapter in his life because we’re going to do a lot of it together,’’ Hendrick said. “But he also is still going to be in and around and visible in the sport, and help tap these young guys on the shoulder and really tutor them. Tell them what they’re doing wrong, what they could do better … because he’s been through all those cycles of life.’’
“I enjoy the race team that we have at JR Motorsports and the fact that we have graduated so many people,’’ Earnhardt said. “That’s something that I look forward to over the next several years is to continue to be a breeding ground for talented men and women that are mechanics and crew chiefs and drivers.’’