Maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Cup Series race won’t be in the 2017 season finale at Homestead.
Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Sonoma that he would be open to running the Daytona 500 if the circumstances fit. As it stands right now, next week’s race at Daytona is his final Cup race at the track. Junior said earlier this season that he’s retiring from the Cup Series, though he’ll drive a couple Xfinity Series races for his own team in 2018.
“Well you never say never,” Junior said. “I am just retiring from full-time racing. I am going to run some Xfinity races next year. I don’t know that I won’t ever run the Daytona 500 again if the right deal comes along. All these tracks you have memories at all of them, Daytona included. I am going to be coming back to these tracks and I want to continue to be part of the sport. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me really. It’s hard for me to put that into words because I don’t know what that is going to feel like.
“It will be pretty weird I think to come back to the 500, I’m going to go to the 500 whether I’ve got any work to do or not. It will be pretty weird to be there and not race. That is going to be strange.”
Earnhardt Jr. has never been known for his road-racing prowess. But he’s got a decent shot in Sunday’s race at Sonoma. He’s finished in the top 12 in each of the last four races at the track and has gotten the first two top 10s of his career at the two-mile road course in that span.
He’s got a decent chance at a good finish and, dare we say it, could be a contender for the win. A victory would move Junior into the playoffs and set the wheels in motion for a retirement tour that could include racing for a championship.
Junior also said Friday that he’s exploring a possible future in television after he retires from driving full-time in November. A report earlier in the week from Sports Business Journal said Junior’s representatives were talking with NASCAR broadcasters Fox and NBC about a possible role.
“Who wanted us, what kind of job they want me for and we are sort of in the middle of understanding that and that just goes along the lines of doing due diligence on everything,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m not retiring from work. I want to keep seeking out opportunities to make a living and make money and be relevant be a value to my partners. I want to continue to be a part of the sport and not just as an owner in the Xfinity Series. I want to be a valuable asset to the growth of the sport and continue to help raise the bar and raise the awareness of the sport and promote the sport as much as I can.”
– – – – – – –