Could Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway have been Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last NASCAR race?
Earnhardt hinted at the possibility after finishing fifth in the race, his first since Darlington late last August.
“I don’t know how many more of these I’ll do,” Earnhardt said after the race. “This might be the last one.
“This ain’t no tease or anything. I’m not trying to be annoying about that. It’s just a lot of commitment and I don’t know. It’s getting to the point where I’ve got to decide whether I’m helping things or I’m not helping the team, can I help the team in other ways.”
Earnhardt’s last NASCAR Cup race was at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November 2017. Since then, he has made three Xfinity Series starts – one each in 2018, 2019 and this year – and has finished fourth, fifth and fifth respectively in those starts.
Earnhardt admitted he was “really, really nervous” coming into the race, which may reflect his future, one that may no longer include him being back behind the wheel in NASCAR’s national series.
“I really enjoy it, I really do, but I think there’s got to be a point to make the change to broadcasting entirely,” Earnhardt said. “But with that said, being in the car I certainly learned a ton that’s going to help me in the booth.
“I just have to think about it. I certainly don’t want to run more (than one Xfinity race a year). One’s plenty and it’s a great series, but we’ll just see how it goes. I guess it’s a tough question to answer and I’m sorry about that.”
Earnhardt admitted he started to get over his nervousness and anxiety leading into Saturday’s race “once I fired the motor and started messing with things inside the car and learning where everything was, and we got rolling around with pace laps and I really felt pretty comfortable at that point. But I worked myself up for the last 72 hours.”
Another thing that Earnhardt has been thinking about a lot lately: he is among 15 nominees (only three will be chosen, along with one Landmark Award winner) for induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021 – to be announced at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday on NASCAR America on NBCSN.
Earnhardt said he plans to do his weekly “Dale Jr. Download” podcast live to capture the moment if he is chosen for induction.
“Whether we are chosen to go into the Hall of Fame or not,” Earnhardt said, “I’m already honored and think it will be a fun experience to sort of document through our podcast.
“I’ve said this from the start, and really feel it in my heart, everybody on that list belongs in there and it doesn’t seem at this point that there’s one more deserving than the another.
“To that respect, I’m young enough to wait my turn. And there’s a lot of names that are not on that list that need to be on that list. We’re all going to argue that every year.”
Earnhardt was asked about recent events, including NASCAR’s announcement that it will ban display of the Confederate flag at all races and properties.
“I have so much confidence in our leadership,” Earnhardt said. “They were communicating with me throughout the week with their plans and I don’t know that I’ve been more proud of the leadership in our sport than I have been in the last two weeks.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve been commenting and speaking up and I’m so glad that the sport is speaking up and the drivers are banding together with their own personal feelings about all this. It makes me feel so good to see a lot of people talking.
“We’ve had a lot of uncertainty with our leadership. There’s been some changes at the top over the last couple years. And now when we get into these moments when our society is looking for change, I love what I’m seeing out of the leadership in our sport to be a part of that change.
“I like what (NASCAR president Steve Phelps) is doing. I think (NASCAR vice president) Steve O’Donnell’s doing a great job, and so I’m so much more confident, I guess, in the direction of our sport with those guys at the helm than I’ve ever been in a long time.”