Dale Earnhardt Jr. apparently considered coming out of retirement.
Whenever the 2020 NASCAR season resumes, Matt Kenseth will fill the open seat in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet left by Kyle Larson, who recently was fired for using a racial slur during a virtual race. But Earnhardt, who retired from full-time racing in 2017, did far more than simply envision himself back behind the wheel of a stock car.
“I bet Matt’s pretty excited,” Earnhardt, 45, said during the latest episode of his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast. “Can’t lie, man, I did dream about the opportunity of driving that car. … You’re not a race car driver if you don’t have any competitive blood flowing through your veins whenever a car opens up. I don’t care who it is or what situation it is. If you don’t think about driving or what it would be like driving it — and I certainly did that. There’s more to the story than you’d even know.”
Earnhardt battled severe concussion issues late in his career, and his relationship with his wife, Amy, suffered. The NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee has been candid about how his health and desire to protect his family — which includes one daughter, Isla, and soon will welcome a second — heavily factored into his decision to leave the sport behind.
Those same concerns ultimately prevented him from seriously pursuing the vacancy in the No. 42.
“Me and (Amy) had a conversation about it,” Earnhardt said. “Because I really had to think hard about whether it’s something I wanted to try to pursue. I told her, I said look, ‘If we weren’t married and I was single, I’d be in that car in a heartbeat. I probably would’ve never stopped.’ And that’s to say that I would not preserve myself, or take care of myself or have any reason to take care of myself, for Isla and our new daughter coming down the road, to be a part of their lives 10, 15, 20 years from now when they’re going through some key moments when they’re going to need their dad — and they’re going to need their dad 100 percent.”
Admittedly, it’s hard to not get excited about the prospect of one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history returning. Could you imagine if the 2020 season resumed with Earnhardt a part of the field?
Still, if you’ve followed Earnhardt’s post-racing career, you know he seems far happier and healthier nowadays than he did toward the end of his storied career.
Thumbnail photo via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images