Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race a Cup car next week at Daytona International Speedway for the final time.
Or will it be?
The 14-time most popular driver, who has said he will retire from full-time driving at the end of this season, opened the door Friday to running the Daytona 500 again some day.
Asked about his feelings of racing at Daytona one last time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Earnhardt noted an interest in running the Daytona 500 again some day.
“You never say never,’’ said the two-time Daytona 500 champ, whose 2004 triumph will air from 7-9 p.m. ET June 29 on NBCSN. “I’m just retiring from full-time racing. I’m going to run some Xfinity races next year. I don’t know that I won’t ever run the Daytona 500 again if the right deal comes along.
“All these tracks, you have memories at all of them, Daytona included. I’m going to be coming back to these tracks and want to be continue to be part of the sport. I don’t think it’s really, I don’t know how it’s going to affect me. It’s hard for me to put into words.
“It will be pretty weird, I think, to come back to the 500. I’m going to go to the 500 (next year) whether I’ve got any work to do or not. So it would pretty weird to be there and not race. It’s going to be strange.
“I remember when (former crew chief and current NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve) Letarte went into the booth. When he wasn’t working a race, he had a hard time being there, he had a hard time watching it and not wanting to be a part of it.
“That was pretty difficult last year (for Earnhardt when he sat out the final 18 races because of concussion symptoms) but it was a different circumstance with the injuries. It will be interesting just when we get to the 500 next year to see how all that feels emotionally.’’
But even if Earnhardt isn’t on the track, he could be on TV. A June 19 report by Sports Business Journal, citing industry sources, stated that Earnhardt was talking to both Fox Sports and NBC Sports about joining either next year.
How likely is it that fans will see him working for one of the TV networks next year?
“I definitely did enjoy doing that,’’ said Earnhardt, who has been in the booth for both networks previously. “We are certainly open to discuss the possibilities, seeing what options I have … what kind of job they want me for. We’re sort of in the middle of understanding that. That just goes along the lines of doing due diligence on everything.
“I’m not retiring from work. I want to keep seeking out opportunities to make a living, make money and be relevant and be a value to my partners. I want to continue to be a part of the sport and not just as an owner in the Xfintiy Series. I want to be a valuable asset to the growth of the sport and continue to help raise the bar and raise the awareness of the sport and promote the sport as much as I can. We’re just kind of looking at what opportunities there are out there for me.
“I’ve obviously signed with (talent agency) WME and that’s really sped up that process of being able to vet through some of these things. I think it’s just a natural curiosity for me to see really what those options are in broadcasting.’’
One thing is certain about next year for Earnhardt. The co-owner of JR Motorsports has said he would drive in at least two Xfinity races next year. Which races he will run have not been announced. As for this season, Earnhardt heads into Sunday’s race 23rd in the points. He likely needs a win to make the playoffs. He’s coming off a ninth-place finish last weekend at Michigan International Speedway, his best finish in the last eight races.