NASCAR legend returning to Bristol for first time in six years

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is set to compete in a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since the 2017 season this Friday night.

Dale Jr.’s retirement following the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season was not a full retirement from racing, nor was it ever intended to be.

Earnhardt has competed in one Xfinity Series race per season since stepping away from full-time racing. Even after considering making his June 2020 start at Homestead-Miami Speedway his last, he opted to come back for more. His most recent appearance came at Martinsville Speedway in April 2022.

Now in 2023, he is set to make two Xfinity Series starts for the first time since the 2017 season, when he was still competing full-time for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series.

The first of Dale Jr.’s two starts is set to come at a venue where he hasn’t yet competed since his final NASCAR Cup Series season: Bristol Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt, who now finds himself in the broadcast booth full-time during NBC’s portion of the Cup Series schedule, is set to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet in the Food City 300. Jason Stockert is set to serve as his crew chief.

In each of his five Xfinity Series starts since retiring from Cup Series competition, the 15-time Most Popular Driver Award winner has driven for the JR Motorsports team he co-owns with sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and he has done so with sponsorship from Unilever’s Hellmann’s brand.

That is set to be the case again in this coming Friday night’s 300-lap race around the four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked Bristol, Tennessee oval.

Earnhardt is a two-time winner at Bristol, with both wins coming in 2004. One came in the Cup Series, and one came in the Xfinity Series. In his most recent Cup Series start at the track in 2017, he finished in 23rd place. In the Xfinity Series race the day before, he finished in 13th.

He is set to make his second and final start of the 2023 season on Saturday, October 21 at Homestead-Miami in the Contender Boats 300, and he is set to do so with longtime JR Motorsports partner Bass Pro Shops as his primary sponsor. He finished in fifth place at the track in 2020.

Aside from Martinsville and Homestead-Miami, Earnhardt has competed at two other tracks since his retirement from full-time racing: Richmond Raceway (2018 and 2021) and Darlington Raceway (2019).

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USA Network is set to broadcast the Food City 300 live from Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET this Friday, September 15. If you have not yet had the chance to start a free trial of FuboTV, do so now and don’t miss Dale Jr.’s first start in almost a year and a half!