While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has driven his No. 88 car a few times since last December, Sunday was the first time he had done so with stakes since July.
Earnhardt qualified second for the Daytona 500 and will start the race next to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott.
Thursday’s Can-Am Duel will be his first NASCAR Cup Series points event since a concussion forced him to miss the last 18 races of 2016. Earnahrdt spoke with Nate Ryan after qualifying.
“That’s the funny thing about racing, you realize being out of the car how much you took it for granted,” Earnhardt said. “Then you just want to get back in, then when you get back in you just want to win, then when you get close you’re disappointed. But in the grand scheme of things, this is awesome. To be back in the car, to be running well. To have such a good day, to see the 24 car do so well, it means a lot.”