Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I Would Love To Race A Late Model One More Time Somewhereby Hunter Thomas September 22, 2018 0 comments
RICHMOND, Va. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Friday night at Richmond Raceway and finished fourth. He credits his overall success at Richmond to his previous Late Model experience.
On Friday night in the GoBowling 250, Earnhardt started alongside of pole-sitter, Christopher Bell. Throughout the 250-lap event, Earnhardt led a race high of 96 laps after being out in front of the field on two occasions. Earnhardt raced side-by-side with series regulars and his JR Motorsports teammates, but ultimately, he finished behind Bell, Ross Chastain and Daniel Hemric.
Earnhardt is a three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner and a four-time NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at Richmond. He credits much of that early success because the Virginia track is very similar to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway, where Earnhardt raced in the 90’s.
“I raced the beach for four years in the 90’s when I was growing up trying to figure out how to drive, and the beach is just like this place,” Earnhardt said. “The surface is slick and worn out. The configuration, shape, banking, everything is so similar to Myrtle Beach, and when I came here, I thought if there’s a track that I know how to get around, it has got to be Richmond.”
While Earnhardt hasn’t ruled out another return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series if it were to help solidify sponsorship for his JR Motorsports drivers, many are wondering if he will return to Late Models now that he’s not a full-time NASCAR national series competitor. At Richmond on Friday, Earnhardt mentioned that he would like to race Late Models again, but he would also like to field a car for Virginia’s Elliott Sadler who is stepping away from full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series competition following this season.
“I would love to race a Late Model one more time somewhere,” Earnhardt said. “I would love to take Elliott wherever he wants to go with one of our cars. I’ve got a car in the shop now that I need to build, and me and him can just goof off and maybe run a couple of races a year for as long as he wants. We certainly would have fun doing that.”
The GoBowling 250 was an exciting time for Earnhardt. First of all, it was the first race where his baby daughter, Isla was at the racetrack with he and Amy. Although Isla is too young to remember the moments, the photos will last a lifetime. On the competition side, Earnhardt had a blast getting back behind the wheel of a race car. When he climbed from his No. 88 Hellmann’s Camaro Chevrolet on pit road following the GoBowling 250, Earnhardt immediately smiled and began reminiscing about the exciting night. Many of the top finishers stopped by and congratulated him too. However, if you ask Earnhardt what the most fun he has ever had in a race car, he’d begin talking about his Late Model days and more specifically, his days of competing at Myrtle Beach Speedway and ordering French toast at Huddle House.
“It’s funny, you think back, somebody was asking me out there how much fun I had, or when was the last time I had that much fun,” Earnhardt said. “I always think back to the Late Model days as probably the funnest racing that I did. You went with your buddies. Who ever would go, got in the truck. You’d stop halfway down to the beach and get out and get a Mt. Dew and a Slim Jim and drive the rest of the way. You’d stop down in South Carolina after the beach, you went to the Huddle House. You didn’t go to Waffle House, because the Waffle House doesn’t have French toast, but the Huddle House does. I’m a big Waffle House fan, but the Huddle Houses down at the beach were big time after the race unless you wrecked somebody, then you didn’t stop. Because they’d be there. I miss how free and easy that was, and as you got higher, it’s obviously bigger business.”
With the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 being held at Martinsville Speedway next weekend and the Myrtle Beach 400 being held at Myrtle Beach Speedway in November, Earnhardt says don’t expect to see him racing in the prestigious NASCAR Whelen All-American Series races anytime soon. In fact, he thinks that he’d have a challenge even qualifying for the main events of each race.
“I don’t think so,” Earnhardt said about racing in the Myrtle Beach 400 anytime soon. “I probably wouldn’t jump right into the big pond like that with my Late Model racing. That’d be like going to Martinsville and running the 300 for my first Late Model race in 20 years. I’d probably have a hard time making the field. I never made the field when I tried when I was younger. It’s a hard race to get into. I’m excited to watch it online for free.”
While Earnhardt won’t be competing, JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry and Sam Mayer will be racing at Martinsville Speedway next Saturday night, competing for one of the most prestigious Late Model victories of the season.
“I know Josh will be going and Mayer,” Earnhardt said. “Hopefully they’ll run well. They’ve been trying to go down there and finish well and win that thing for a while. It’d be pretty cool to have won that as an owner. We’ve been real proud with what we’ve been able to accomplish in Late Models as owners in that series over the years and hopefully in the years to come.”