Dale Jr. issues blunt response to return rumors

Dale Jr. discussed his recent test of the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway and addressed rumors of a potential return.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from NASCAR Cup Series season competition after 18 years in the series following the 2017 campaign.

While the 47-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native has competed in NASCAR multiple times since then, he has limited it to one start per year in the Xfinity Series, where he co-owns the JR Motorsports team.

In 2018, he competed at Richmond Raceway. He competed at Darlington Raceway in 2019 and Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2020 before returning to Richmond Raceway in 2021. He is set to compete at Martinsville Speedway this coming April.

Dale Jr. hasn’t stayed out of a Cup car altogether, however.

Back in October, he had the chance to test the Next Gen car at Bowman Gray Stadium with fellow Cup Series retirees Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer.

He had a similar opportunity earlier this week at Daytona International Speedway in the #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and he tested alongside several active drivers ahead of next month’s 2022 season-opening Daytona 500. The 64th annual “Great American Race” is set to mark the official debut of the Gen 7 machine.

At Hendrick Motorsports, he joined William Byron, the driver of the #24 Chevrolet. The team’s other three drivers, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, are all racing at the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week.

Earnhardt was asked whether or not his participation in this test is any sort of an indication that he wants to get back behind the wheel on Sundays, even if only part-time or for something like a Daytona 500 one-off.

The two-time Daytona winner — and two-time father — gave a pretty straightforward answer.

“No impact. You know, I think that it’s a long story, but I’m old, 47 years old, and take a guy like William Byron and he’s young, he’s a risk taker, and I’m done taking risks. You know, I’ve got two little girls that I love being around and I put my wife through a lot to race, you know, half of my career that she was with me. She put everything in her role on pause for eight or 10 years while we did all that, and I just don’t know that at 47 years old I would be willing to take the necessary risks out on the race track that a young guy like William Byron would be willing to do.”

This isn’t the first time that these kinds of rumors have emerged, suggesting that Dale Jr. might return. But it’s safe to say that his Cup Series duties will go no further serving as a color commentator on the NASCAR on NBC broadcasting team, a role he has held since the 2018 season.

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