NASCAR Hall of Famer and NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to race Martinsville again, he said on this week’s episode of the “Door Bumper Clear” podcast.
Earnhardt, a two-time Xfinity champion, has continued to make one-off appearances in the series every year since retiring from his full-time Cup career at the end of 2017.
The JR Motorsports co-owner made his lone start of 2022 at Martinsville Speedway last Friday but left unsatisfied with his 11th-place finish. Earnhardt eyes another trip to the 0.526-mile track to improve his result next time out.
“I really love Martinsville, and I think I didn’t get everything out of that that I wanted in terms of performance, so I’d love to go back and try again to run better knowing what I know now,” Earnhardt said. “The short runs in that series, the lack of tire wear, the grip, the cooler temperatures, all those things, we weren’t quite prepared balance-wise for how that race was going to play out. And I don’t know that I would’ve been able to prepare any better because I just didn’t know. But going back, I think I could perform better.”
Earnhardt, who needed to make the race on time, qualified 30th with a lap of 20.407 seconds. The final driver to make the field on time was JJ Yeley, who posted a 20.444-second lap.
“Qualifying, man, I was sweating bullets,” Earnhardt said on the podcast. “I told everybody going into that race I was like, ‘Man, it ain’t a lot. I’m a go-or-go-homer.’ I’ve never experienced that for one. That was not fun. Even though I knew I had a really fast car, I’m thinking ‘Man, how do these guys like Timmy Hill and (Stefan) Parsons do it every week?’ Because every week, some of them guys live that — that nerve. That is a horrible way to live and having to worry about that every single week.”
The experience reminded Earnhardt, the sport’s 15-time Most Popular Driver, how strong the Xfinity field. Earnhardt averaged a 15.4 running position Friday evening.
“You’ve got to have it all lined up all just right for you to be able to go out there and be competitive, and there was a bunch of pieces missing when that race started,” he said. “Some of it was the balance of the car. A lot of it was me. As the race went on, we got the balance better. I felt like I was getting better. But I want to go do it again.
“I definitely want to do it again. I love driving the cars … The thing is I need to do it more to be better. It does help (covering the sport on TV). Because like you say, it reminds me of how good they are and I think we take that for granted. Sitting up there in the booth, you’re watching it over and over and over and you’re talking nuts and bolts or strategy or what a guy’s thinking or feeling. But we sometimes kind of forget these are the elite. These are the best guys out there.”
Since rejoining the series on a part-time basis, Earnhardt has made starts at Richmond (2018, 2021), Darlington (2019), Homestead (2020) and Martinsville with three top fives in his last five races.