It’s starting to get real for NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The 26-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, NBC broadcaster and JR Motorsports team owner will make his lone NASCAR Xfinity Series start of the season Friday at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and he and the team are getting the final details just right.
I sat in my xfinity @Hellmanns Chevy today to make sure everything fits. I made some engine sounds. I turned the wheel, wrestling the car through a fictitious corner. I tilted my head against the imaginary g forces. I mashed the pedals and shifted the gears. Felt pretty good tbh.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) April 5, 2022
Earnhardt retired from full-time Cup Series competition after the 2017 season. In each year since, he has entered one Xfinity Series race per season in a part-time effort with his JR Motorsports team.
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Friday will mark his first Xfinity Series start at the 0.526-mile Virginia oval. The series returned to Martinsville last season after a nearly 14-year hiatus.
Earnhardt has plenty of Cup Series reps on the track, though. He notched the 23rd of his 26 career Cup Series victories in 2014 at Martinsville, claiming the track’s signature grandfather clock trophy. That win marked his last with crew chief Steve Letarte, who now works alongside Earnhardt as a fellow analyst with NBC Sports.
Since 2018, Earnhardt’s four Xfinity Series starts have produced three top-five finishes. He has competed in two one-off starts at Richmond Raceway (2018, 2021), plus single starts at Darlington Raceway (2019) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (2020).
Earnhardt will drive the No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet on Friday night, and he’ll have a special steering wheel, too. The orange, camouflaged wheel will be auctioned off after the event to raise funds to battle food insecurity through The Dale Jr. Foundation’s partner charities.
PHOTOS: Dale Jr.’s life in NASCAR