Dale Earnhardt Jr. still plans to race next weekend

Earnhardt, his wife, Amy, their daughter, Isla, their dog, Gus, and two pilots were on the private plane that slide off the runway after landing and caught fire at an airport in Tennessee. Everyone is OK, and Dale Jr. took the Bristol Motor Speedway weekend off from broadcasting for NBC.

The burned remains of a plane that was carrying NASCAR television analyst and former driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. lie near a runway Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Elizabethton, Tenn. Officials said the Cessna Citation rolled off the end of a runway and caught fire after landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport. Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, tweeted that “everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation.” (Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier via AP) 

After all that, it’s reasonable for fans to wonder if Earnhardt still plans to get behind the wheel at Darlington in the second-tier XFINITY Series on August 31.

Despite a bruised lower back and “[l]ots of swelling”, that answer is yes — but he has a backup plan just in case. It’s clear he really wants to race.

Yes. I plan on driving still. My lower back is bruised up real bad. Lots of swelling and I just need that to go down and the pain to chill out. I been treating the area every day solely to get well to race. I have a plan B but hope not to use itEarnhardt retired from full-time racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

But since then, he’s been competing in one race a season in the second-tier XFINITY Series for his own team, JR Motorsports. In 2018, he drove the No. 88 Chevrolet at Richmond Raceway, qualified second and led for a race-high 96 laps before finishing fourth.

As NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver, Earnhardt occasionally racing is a big deal for JR Nation. But it would be understandable if he opted not to race at Darlington, given recent events.

However, Earnhardt is one of the most health-conscious drivers — he’s been incredibly vocal about concussion safety and awareness in NASCAR and plans to donate his brain for research — so it’s also fair to assume he wouldn’t get back in the car if it wasn’t safe for him.

Monday, Earnhardt released a statement about the plane crash, thanking everyone for their support, saying, “We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries”.

Source: FTW Racing