It’s been one heck of a month for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The NASCAR star and his family survived a fiery plane crash just weeks ago in Tennessee, with Earnhardt Jr. suffering minor injuries in the incident. And now, the retired driver will hop back into a race car to make his much anticipated return to racing this weekend at Darlington.
Dale Jr. will race in this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at the “Track Too Tough To Tame,” in his first race since last summer.
While he did suffer some minor injuries in the crash, Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t expect to be hindered in the car this weekend.
“I had some bad bruising on my back, but I went and got some excellent advice and care and treatment for that and I’ve been doing some things at home to bring the swelling down,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“All of that has actually gotten better very quickly, so I think I’m going to be OK. I think once you get in the car you won’t even think about it.”
This will be the first time Earnhardt will run at Darlington since the 2017 Southern 500, and he says he chose this weekend to make a cameo appearance for the old school theme of the weekend, allowing him to give a nod to his father Dale Earnhardt Sr.
“I picked this weekend solely for the throwback experience,” Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When we were there last year as broadcasters, I was like this is so much fun, this would be a great race to run on my schedule if I get a race and here we are.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s paint scheme will be a nod to his dad’s first paint scheme.
“I think the one thing that is fun about this whole experience is to be able to draw attention to the paint scheme, the story behind the paint scheme,” he said. “Not only is it dad’s first race in the Cup series in 1975 at Charlotte but the family behind the car and the story about how dad got into the car.
“(The 1975) car was owned by Ed Negre. Dad and Norman Negre, Ed’s son, were friends. Dad and Norman got the nerve up and go to Ed and say, ‘Ed, this car is sitting in the back of your shop and we’d love to take it to Charlotte and try to run that race.’ He at first was real reluctant and finally goes, ‘Whatever, you guys take it.’ They go and qualify and make the race.”
After racing on Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. will return to the booth on Sunday to join NBC Sports’ broadcast team with Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett during the race’s second stage.