Dale Earnhardt Jr. Explains Why He Won’t Compete in the Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Getty Dale Earnhardt Jr. attends a Next Gen test session at Daytona.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has shut down any prospects of a return to NASCAR Cup Series competition. He won’t return to Hendrick Motorsports or any other team for the Daytona 500 or any other race at the top level of NASCAR.

The 15-time Most Popular Driver met with media members to start the second day of Next Gen testing at Daytona International Speedway and explained that he will not make a return to the top level of stock car racing. Earnhardt explained during the session that he is not willing to put everything on the line as he did early in his career due to his role as a father and husband.

“You know, I think that it’s a long story, but I’m old, 47 years old, and take a guy like William Byron and he’s young, he’s a risk-taker, and I’m done taking risks,” Earnhardt said on January 12. “You know, I’ve got two little girls that I love being around and I put my wife through a lot to race, you know, half of my career that she was with me. She put everything in her role on pause for eight or 10 years while we did all that, and I just don’t know that at 47 years old I would be willing to take the necessary risks out on the race track that a young guy like William Byron would be willing to do.”


The Difficulty Level Adds Another Reason to Stay Away

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

GettyDale Earnhardt Jr. tests the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro.

The level of risk-taking required to succeed was one reason for Earnhardt shutting down a potential return for the Daytona 500. He added another during his media session on January 12 and compared his situation to that of other retired athletes.

Earnhardt explained that it’s impossible to simply show up for the Daytona 500 and compete after staying away from the Cup Series. He explained that the level of talent is “elite” and said that he would be like a retired NFL player trying to show up and compete with other players.

“You’d get destroyed,” Earnhardt added. “I remember when [Jamie] McMurray came back and ran a couple years ago for Spire [Motorsports]. He got out and he told me, he said, ‘man, I don’t remember it being that hard.’ It’s tough. Not an easy thing.”


Earnhardt Now Has Extra Information for NBC

With Earnhardt taking part in two days of superspeedway testing, he now has a better grasp on the Next Gen cars. He will be able to head to the NBC broadcast booth and provide more information to the viewers on NBC and USA Network during the second half of the Cup Series season.

Earnhardt already tested the Next Gen stock car on a quarter-mile short track. He completed 50 laps at Bowman Gray Stadium during a Next Gen test session on October 26 and learned how the new car reacted to a track that requires extra time on the brakes.

With seat time at the shortest track, as well as one of the longest, Earnhardt is only missing experience at an intermediate. There is no guarantee that he will secure an opportunity to test out the Next Gen car again before the season considering that the only session remaining will take place at Phoenix Raceway on January 25-26. However, some extra laps would provide even more information for Earnhardt and the entire NBC broadcast booth.

READ NEXT: Key Partner Returns to Corey LaJoie, Spire Motorsports

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