Dale Earnhardt Jr. will again contest a NASCAR Xfinity Series race for his JR Motorsports, and this time, it will be an epic return to one of his most revered tracks with one of his most revered numbers.
Darlington Raceway is the track, and the storied No. 8 Chevrolet is the vehicle. The race marks the first time in 12 years Earnhardt Jr. will reunite with the number.
Earnhardt Jr. recently confirmed that he will compete in Darlington Raceway’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 race, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31 (4 p.m. live on NBC and MRN), at the track Too Tough To Tame during the track’s popular throwback weekend.
“There are many things I love about Darlington that contributed to my decision to run there this year, but the main reason is the track surface,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I love races where you have to be smart and manage your tires. Darlington is slick, and it wears out tires. It’s one of the few stops on the circuit that provides that challenge.”
It will be the first action for the two-time NXS champion (1998-99) since last fall at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, where he finished fourth in the No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet Camaro.
“It (the race at Darlington) will mean a lot to me in the same way it meant a lot to me at Richmond last year,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The only expectation I bring into the weekend is to give the fans their money’s worth. Otherwise it’s no pressure, maximum fun. It’s not about the results anymore; it’s about the experience. Make no mistake though – I’m going to try to win.”
The only difference from last year’s Richmond run will be, obviously, the number. Well, that and the fact that the car will carry a special throwback paint scheme for Hellmann’s.
“Hellmann’s is once again the primary sponsor, and I will drive the No. 8,” he said. “I had an idea for a throwback scheme, but with this being my only race I knew it would’ve been justified for Hellmann’s to prefer a current scheme. They supported my idea, and I am thankful. Together with Hellmann’s we will unveil the car in the next month or so. I will say this – it’s not going to be a throwback to anything I’ve ever driven myself.”
The last time Earnhardt Jr. raced at Darlington in the NXS was 1999, and his best finish on the egg-shaped 1.366-mile oval is second (1998).
Reaction from Darlington Raceway was, as you might expect, quite enthusiastic.
“We are thrilled to have Dale Earnhardt Jr. race in our NASCAR XFINITY Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 event at Darlington Raceway,” Kerry Tharp, track president said. “Dale has a tremendous amount of passion for Darlington and we are all excited to see what kind of special throwback paint scheme he will run at the track Too Tough To Tame. Fans don’t get many opportunities to see him race, so it will be something special to see on Aug. 31.”