NASCAR Cup Series
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1-on-1: On future racing plans, Cup ownership possibilities
NASCAR Cup Series

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1-on-1: On future racing plans, Cup ownership possibilities

Published Jun. 13, 2024 11:29 a.m. ET

Fans are used to seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. as part of the NBC telecasts, which begin this weekend at Iowa Speedway.

But Earnhardt — by far NASCAR’s most popular driver during his years in the sport — is not returning to the NBC booth this year. He returns next season for 10 races (points races 13-22 on the Cup schedule), five on Amazon Prime Video and five on TNT.

So how is Earnhardt spending his time this summer? FOX Sports caught up with Earnhardt — media personality, businessman, and co-owner of JR Motorsports — at JRM’s fan day last month to find out what he is doing, what he thinks of the short-track package (the next two races are at the 0.875-mile Iowa and 1-mile New Hampshire), how much longer he will do a race or two in the Xfinity Series and whether JR Motorsports will ever go Cup racing.

I figure people are wondering what in the world is Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing since he’s not in the booth this year. So what are you doing?


What am I doing? Well, this year I turn 50 in October, so I've been traveling a lot. I went to Europe to hang out with Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears and Matt Kenseth and all our wives. We had a good little trip. We’re probably going to go back to Europe later in the year. We’ve got a few trips planned. We're tuning in — we're watching all the races trying to stay on top of what's going on in the sport. We're still doing all of our Dirty Mo’ Media podcasting. And we're here at JR Motorsports every week creating all our content for that. I’m racing our little late model car here and there. I'm going to run the Xfinity car at Bristol again this year, just like we did last year with Hellmann’s, and then I'm running three-to-five late model stock races in the CARS Tour and the Advanced Auto Parts weekly series that NASCAR has. It’s all really a lot of fun. I am missing the broadcast. I know NBC hasn't started this year, and that's going to be tough to tune in and see those guys and not be there with them because I've grown so comfortable working with all of the folks at NBC and certainly my friends in the booth. And so that'll be a little tough once that gets started. But otherwise, we announced our deal with Amazon and TNT, so we're starting to already have the meetings about what we want in our broadcast and what we want it to look like. We haven't finished building the booth yet. ... As soon as we get the booth built, we're going to start doing some mock runs, basically get in a room and pretend to broadcast the actual race that maybe NBC or FOX is doing. So looking forward to that because I'm anxious to get some good chemistry going on with whoever's in the booth with me because we've got five races to get it right. We want to be right straight out of the gate with Amazon and TNT. So it’d be good to get some practice runs going. A lot to do, a lot to keep me busy.

We talked about the racing that you're going to do. I know that I've heard you say that at some point, you're not going to be racing anymore. Do you know when that is or do you feel good for a couple Xfinity races a year?

I want to run my late model for a really long time. I imagine when I get to around 60, I'll be probably considering that that's probably too old to be out there battling with some of these younger guys. So I’ve got about a 10-year runway to do everything I want to do with my late model. The Xfinity car? Every year, I say that — personally but I don't really share this publicly — but every year, I pretty much feel like it could be my last. I'm going into this race at Bristol this year knowing that it might be the last one I run. There’s nothing that really makes that decision. It’s just last year was a lot of fun, led some laps. But it is a big commitment. I just logged in the calendar the sim that I'm going to be doing to try to prepare for that. And we do a lot of promotion around the partnership with Hellmann's around that race. And so it's not just show up and race and, "Oh man, that was great. We'll do it again next year." There's a lot of work that goes into it months ahead of time. But as long as we're running good like we did — we ran so much better than I thought we would at Bristol last year — and as long as that's happening, I think I'll always want to keep coming back. When you go out there and you know the car is good and you just aren't able to produce the result, then it's probably time to let somebody else try it.

Cup is racing at Iowa for the first time. The short-track package has been a struggle. When you're watching short tracks, what are you hoping for the most these days?

I think we're learning a lot. I've been very critical of the short track package on my own content, Dirty Mo’ Media, "The Dale Jr. Download." And fans have been critical, and everybody wants NASCAR to get it right and everybody's got a different opinion, myself included — it’s the car, it's this, it’s that and the other. But I think where we've kind of landed, at least it seems at the moment, is that we can certainly learn a lot by messing with a tire and Goodyear seems to be willing to be a bit aggressive with the tire. We didn't get the desired result that we were looking for [with the softer tire] at the all-star race at North Wilkesboro. We didn't get that desired result with the different tire combinations. But they did learn from it. And I think the drivers are open-minded and have given a lot of great input and feedback on what they're feeling with the tires as they start to change the compound. And so I'm hoping that Goodyear can continue race by race to push the envelope on a softer compound and a tire that will give us the racing that we want. And honestly, man, I really thought that the all-star race was a really great step in the right direction. We saw a brand new repave that was multi-groove. We've never seen that before and as many years as I can remember, a repaved racetrack that put on such great racing. I know it's hard to pass, but it's supposed to be hard to pass. It's never not going to be hard to pass, I can promise you that. The only time it's not hard to pass is when you're at the superspeedways and you can get a draft and get around somebody. But everywhere else, it should be hard to pass. And so we're always going to be arguing over how much of hard-to-pass can we put up with. Any time you have multi-grooves like we had at Wilkesboro, that's a great thing. Hopefully, we continue to see that develop as we go further along the schedule and racing at these short tracks throughout the rest of the year [and] Goodyear continuing to push the tire and get more aggressive with the tire. Because I don't think the tracks are broken. And I don't really necessarily believe the car is broken. They’ve tried everything with this car. They've stripped the downforce away. They've done all the things they can do at the test. The drivers feel nothing when they're making these changes. So I'm not 100 percent sold that the car is the problem.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks future of running his late model for the next decade

If you're going on vacation, I guess that means no charter negotiations for you?

We’re out of the charter business right now. ... The sale of a charter, I would call it a cycle, right? Well, we missed this last cycle. We'll see what comes down the road. I'm almost feeling like that if I were to ever get involved in the Cup side, it would be like an investment — my personal monetary investment in something current. I would be open to talking to team owners about putting money into a particular singular charter and saying, "Hey, I'm going to park an investment here in this charter. I'm leaving that for my generations down the road, my girls and what have you." It wouldn't be anything other than that. So I don't know if we'll ever have JR Motorsports physically owning charters, running a race team operating every facet of that. I think that that ship has sailed.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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