Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he wants to run another Martinsville Xfinity race


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.