NASCAR: Has Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his final start?

Dale Earnhardt Jr., JR Motorsports, Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR, Xfinity Series (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., JR Motorsports, Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR, Xfinity Series (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Following his fifth place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, has Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the final start of his NASCAR career?

15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time Cup Series competition following the 2017 season, his 19th overall season and 18th full season in the series.

However, the 45-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native has continued to compete in NASCAR over the last few years. He has driven for JR Motorsports, the Xfinity Series team which he co-owns, in one race in each of the last three seasons.

In September of 2018, he drove the #88 Chevrolet to a fourth place finish at Richmond Raceway. Last August, he drove the #8 Chevrolet to a sixth place finish at Darlington Raceway.

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That sixth place finish turned into a fifth place finish when race winner Denny Hamlin was disqualified after his #18 Toyota failed post-race inspection.

On Saturday afternoon, Earnhardt got to make the start that he was scheduled to make on Saturday, March 21 but could not due to the coronavirus pandemic. He got back behind the wheel of the #8 Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he finished in fifth place. This race was his 142nd career Xfinity Series race and his 775th career NASCAR race.

Was his 204,415th lap his last?

Earnhardt previously told FanSided that he plans to run one race each year for as long as he can.

“I’m going to run one race a year for as long as I can,” Earnhardt stated last year. “I enjoy doing that one event.”

But after 25 seasons of competing at NASCAR’s top two levels in some capacity, he may be done after yesterday.

Here is what Earnhardt had to say about the possibility of Saturday’s race being the final NASCAR race of his career, according to NASCAR.

"“I think right now it’s just going to stay the same. I don’t want to do any more, that’s for sure. I can say that with confidence. I don’t know how many more of these I’ll do. This might be the last one, and this ain’t no tease or anything like that. I’m not trying to be annoying about that. It’s a lot of a commitment, and I just…I don’t know. It’s getting to the point to where I’ve got to decide whether I’m helping things or I’m not helping the team, how can I help the team in other ways. I don’t know.“I really enjoy it. I really do, but I think there’s got to be a point to where I decide to make the change to broadcasting entirely. With that said, being in the car today, I certainly learned a ton that’s going to help me in the (broadcast) booth. I’ve just got to think about it, and I certainly don’t want to run more. One is plenty and it’s a great series. We’ll just see how it goes. I guess it’s a tough question to answer.”"

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Have we seen the last of Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel of a stock car? Will his role as an analyst for NASCAR on NBC become his sole focus? He doesn’t have to make a decision anytime soon, and he likely won’t, given that the 2020 season still in its early stages. But based on these comments, his driving days may be over.