Dale Earnhardt Jr. has yet to confirm at which track he will compete in the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for JR Motorsports.
Ever since retiring from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition upon the conclusion of the 2017 season, 15-time Most Popular Driver Award winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has competed in one Xfinity Series race per season for JR Motorsports, the team he co-owns at the sport’s second highest level.
In 2018, he finished in fourth place at Richmond Raceway, and he has since secured back-to-back fifth place finishes at Darlington Raceway in 2019 and Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2020. He initially finished in sixth at Darlington Raceway, but race winner Denny Hamlin was disqualified.
While there was speculation in mid-June after his fifth place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway that this start may have been his last, the 46-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native has confirmed that he plans to return to the cockpit of the #8 Chevrolet for one race in 2021 with sponsorship from longtime partner Hellman’s.
While he knew the answer, he could not confirm where he would make that start when he spoke to Beyond the Flag over the offseason.
“It’s not going to be Martinsville where I wanted to go. Hellmann’s and the guys, they need a little bit of time to sort of activate the sponsorship and get their money’s worth, and we need to allow them to be able to maximize that. For what we ask of them, they deserve that much from us. And they cannot activate in time to be able to run the first Martinsville race, so that knocks that one off the list, because Martinsville is where I wanted to go.
“I do not want to run that last Martinsville race because that’s in the middle of the playoffs and I don’t want to be any part of that storyline, so I’m going to completely avoid any of those races in the playoffs next year. It’s somewhere that I’ve raced before in the last couple of years. I’m sure some of you guys can kind of guess where it might be, but I’m really looking forward to it because I love being behind the wheel.”
First of all, he noted that because he won’t be competing at Martinsville Raceway, he is set to compete at a track where he has recently competed, implying that it is one of the three tracks where he competed from 2018 to 2020 following his retirement.
If the first race at Martinsville Speedway race is too early (Friday, April 9), then the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Saturday, February 27) obviously would have been too early as well. That race has now come and gone anyway.
Secondly, the only race at Richmond Raceway on this year’s schedule is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 11, at which point Sam Mayer is slated to be the full-time driver of the #8 Chevrolet since he is set to turn 18 years old on Saturday, June 26.
That leaves only Darlington Raceway, which is scheduled to host two Xfinity Series races this season: one on Saturday, May 8 and another one on Saturday, September 4.
Given Mayer’s schedule, Earnhardt would obviously be looking at the former.
Plus, this race does not have a confirmed driver for the #8 Chevrolet. Mayer is set to run a 17-race schedule, Josh Berry has already competed in two of his 12 scheduled races, and Miguel Paludo has already competed in one of his scheduled three.
Add that up, and you get 32 races confirmed for the #8 car, and the 2021 season features a 33-race schedule.
But once again, that has not yet been confirmed. With that race still more than two months away, there is no timeline on when that confirmation may take place, and according to Earnhardt, it depends on the whole Hellmann’s situation.
The Toyota 200 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Darlington Raceway beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 8.