When Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped away from full-time competition to enter the TV booth, he technically never said he was completely retiring. While his full-time career would be over, the window was open for a potential return if the situation was right.
This weekend, that situation presented itself. Dale Jr. is getting back in the car for Friday night’s Xfinity Series race in Richmond, and will be an in-car driver analyst for NBCSN’s coverage.
Piloting his own JR Motorports car, Earnhardt brought on spotter TJ Majors, who is on loan from Penske Racing. Earnhardt said on Twitter that he got the approval of Roger Penske himself to get his spotter back. After Earnhardt stepped away from the Cup Series, Majors became Joey Logano’s spotter.
As Earnhardt notes, it’s not such an easy task to just say you want to come back and drive. Answering fans on Twitter, Earnhardt said that he drove a Late Model car to get back into the rhythm. And when it comes to racing, it’s a delicate balance as a broadcaster, a team owner, and now, a driver. For one thing, Earnhardt has four full-time cars in operation, so plenty of people are required to keep the four cars operating. At the same time, if Earnhardt steps into a car, the sponsorship value increases, so that means more money will be injected into the team. And he said that when he does race, it’ll be for added sponsorship that helps fund the entire team. But that also means a team working hard to prep four cars would need to add a fifth car, and that’s not an easy task.
The concept of the in-car driver analyst isn’t new but it’ll be Earnhardt’s first foray into this as a full-time analyst for NBC. Usually, when a driver does this, they are talking during caution so they’re not distracted during racing and they can hear more important people over the radio at that time. Nevertheless, it’s usually a good insight from a driver who is racing. Earnhardt’s schedule this weekend doesn’t change – he will be on the broadcast for Cup Series coverage throughout the weekend. But while he’ll be busy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also be having a lot of fun.