Dale Earnhardt Jr. walked away from full-time racing at the end of the 2017 season but has taken part in one Xfinity Series race each year since. Reports surfaced after 2020's outing that he would not do so anymore, but the 15-time Most Popular Driver shut that speculation down. He confirmed that he is getting back into the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro but didn't provide a date.
According to Beyond the Flag, Earnhardt may not have provided any updates about where he will race while confirming his desire to return to the track. However, he eliminated certain options during a recent discussion. Based on his comments, as well as the age of other JR Motorsports drivers, there are very few options for Earnhardt. In fact, Beyond the Flag believes that Earnhardt will suit up for a race at Darlington.
"It's not going to be Martinsville where I wanted to go," Earnhardt said about his 2021 outing. "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."
Earnhardt then clarified that he doesn't want to take part in the second Martinsville race due to it taking place in the middle of the playoffs. He said that he doesn't want to be part of the storyline as the other drivers are competing for crucial points. "It's somewhere that I've raced before in the last couple of years," Earnhardt added. "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."
Since walking away from driving, Earnhardt has driven the No. 8 Hellmann's Mayonnaise Chevrolet at Richmond, Darlington, and Homestead-Miami. He finished in fourth place at Richmond in 2018, fifth at Darlington in 2019, and fifth at Homestead-Miami in 2020. He actually finished sixth at Darlington, but race winner Denny Hamlin was disqualified due to failing post-race inspection.
The only race scheduled for Richmond is on Sept. 11. This outing is not likely due to JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer becoming the full-time driver of the No. 8 after turning 18 in June. The Xfinity Series has already headed to Homestead-Miami, removing it from the list of possibilities. This would theoretically leave one of Darlington's two races as the only options. Earnhardt will be at the track on May 8 for throwback weekend, and he will bring Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s No. 8 Chevrolet Nova for the pace laps.
Driving the pace car should automatically remove the May 8 race from the list of options, making Sept. 4's trip to Darlington the only possible race. Though Mayer should be the full-time driver at that point. For now, questions will continue to swirl as racing fans highlight Darlington as the top option for Earnhardt's return.