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Dale Earnhardt Jr in Debt of Struggling Hendrick Motorsports Champion for Rejuvenating His Confidence to Race

Published 09/20/2023, 7:43 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

In the world of NASCAR, the thrill of competition can draw anyone back into the race, no matter how long they’ve been away. Dale Earnhardt Jr, a NASCAR legend in his own right, is a prime example of this enduring passion. He recently participated in the Xfinity Series race at Bristol, running like a true champ before a car fire forced him to retire. But what inspired him to keep racing, especially after retiring from the Cup Series? The answer lies in an unexpected source.

A struggling Hendrick Motorsports driver rekindled Earnhardt Jr’s confidence and love for racing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr credits HMS Star for encouraging him to go out there and race

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Dale Earnhardt Jr stepped away from full-time racing in the Cup Series after the 2017 season. Since then, his appearances in national series racing have been sporadic. However, whenever he returns, he makes sure to leave a mark. Despite an electrical issue that ignited a fire in his car, Earnhardt Jr led 47 laps and performed brilliantly, even if it ended with a 30th-place DNF.

Before his recent race at Bristol, Earnhardt Jr admitted that he was nervous, perhaps more nervous than ever before. He reflected on the anxiety of qualifying and the fear of missing the race, a feeling he had rarely experienced in his illustrious career. Yet, he braved through the nerves and uncertainty because, ultimately, he knew he would have fun. That’s what racing is all about for him. The joy of being on the track, racing at iconic venues like Bristol, and feeling the rush of adrenaline.

During a recent conversation on his podcast, co-host and good buddy Mike Davis asked Jr why he keeps doing it. Why does he keep going back to the racecar? In response, Dale Jr explained that he admires Chase Elliott‘s willingness to step out of his comfort zone to race in disciplines where success is not guaranteed. He sees in Elliott a fearless approach to racing where the thrill of competition matters more than the fear of not winning.

“Chase Elliott went to run in the Chili Bowl a couple years ago,” said Dale Jr. “And I mean that is a… The odds are long, right? That he’s not going to make the main, right? I mean, the guy’s a great driver. Several people have tried the Chili Bowl lately that are just not… it’s that’s not their discipline, right? And I really admired that. I was like, okay, here’s a young guy and he’s willing to go somewhere where he thinks… he might get his b**t kicked. And dang, you know I just need to go have fun, even if I get my a** kicked.”

“Seeing those guys like Chase Elliott, and I use him as an example because he’s the only one I can really think of. But seeing him go do something where he knows he might not do it well, and he’s probably not going to win. But he’s fine with that, really encouraged me to just stop worrying about losing,” he concluded.

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Jr’s recent Xfinity Series race at Bristol not only showcased his enduring passion for racing, but also sparked discussions about other retired drivers making one-off appearances.

Dale Jr explains why we might never see Jeff Gordon racing again like he teased

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After his impressive performance at Bristol, Dale Earnhardt Jr sent NASCAR fans into a frenzy by suggesting that Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton might consider a one-off Xfinity race. The idea of seeing these legends back on the track excited many fans. However, in a recent episode of his podcast, Earnhardt Jr shared his insights into why he believes Jeff Gordon wouldn’t be open to such a prospect.

He explained, “I honestly think that while they’re probably some good reasons why they don’t want to come back and do that, one big reason, they’re afraid of not succeeding. There’s probably some of that fear of not being good enough.”

The fear of not meeting their own high standards seems to be a common factor among elite athletes, even in retirement. Jeff Gordon, like many top athletes, has a storied career and a legacy to protect. The idea of returning to racing and potentially not performing up to their own expectations can be daunting.

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As Dale Earnhardt Jr continues to make occasional racing appearances, he carries with him the inspiration of fearless racers like Chase Elliott and a heart that just loves the fun of racing.

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Written by:

Veerendra Vikram Singh

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Veerendra Vikram Singh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With a natural affinity for motorsports, he brings a unique perspective to his coverage of everything NASCAR. His love for sports extends way beyond NASCAR, encompassing Formula 1 and MotoGP and a few other motorsports as well.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh