Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back racing in the Xfinity Series this weekend in Miami. Last time at Bristol, he had race-winning speed but a fire forced him to retire. Can he win this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
Driving for his team JR Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s second Xfinity Series start is this Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dale Jr. has had some great successes here at this speedway, it is the location where he won his two Xfinity Series (then the Busch Series) championships. Could Jr. return to victory lane this weekend?
Let’s look at his incredible run at Bristol. Qualifying in fifteenth, the #88 finished in the top ten in stage one. Not running for stage points but for a win, he fourth in the next stage. Dale Jr. stole the show away from his driver and eventual race winner Justin Allgaier. Junior would lead forty-seven laps before a fire inside the dash would end his race.
The excitement coming from the forty-nine-year-old was great to see. Dale Jr. came over the radio and said “I f****** missed this s*** boys” and even in his interview at the infield care center he was smiling and happy with his result. He continued his passion when Allgaier won the race, jumping on the car for a ride to victory lane.
Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. Win Miami?
With his run at Bristol, the weight to potentially win in Miami must be immense on Junior’s shoulders. I think Dale Jr. can handle that pressure, he’s carried the weight of the Earnhardt name since 2001. I think the one thing that will allow him to succeed this weekend will be his attitude. Is he as excited to race again as he was at Bristol?
On his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, he gave his preview on returning to Homestead. He said he was in the simulator, logging some laps to prepare him for the race. He also mentioned how much fun he has when he is running the high line with a great car. But he mentioned Bristol and the great run there, but that he is managing his expectations.
Junior is also aware of the playoffs and keeping himself out of causing any trouble for the eight drivers fighting for a championship.
The same car he ran at Bristol is making a return. Dale explained in the post-race media session that the fire that took him out of the race was caused by an ignition component. Those components are kept on the dashboard of the car. When the fire began, it dropped sparks down onto the leg rest, part of the containment seats these cars have. The foam of that leg rest caught fire and burned his fire suit, alerting him that he needed to retire from the race.
The car has since been fixed and rewrapped in Day-Glo Orange Bass Pro Shops colors. A homage to his father’s 1986 Wrangler paint scheme and sporting a partnership with long-time friend and founder of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris. Junior said the car looks awesome and hopes he has a good-looking right side he can auction off for charity.
The DaleJr car for the Xfinity race this weekend. He said on the download it is the same car as Bristol (obviously with the electrical issue fixed). pic.twitter.com/WSPMf8A3W7
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) October 20, 2023
Overall, I think he will have race-winning pace, but will not be the race-winner. He is in a difficult position with being an owner, having two drivers in the championship and six others on track with him. He does not want to cause problems for those fighting for points, and I think that mindset will keep him from winning. Many things can happen during the race and it may benefit Junior. We will have to watch and see.
I love seeing Junior on track. It is great for the viewership, for the Xfinity Series and his team, and for him as a commentator for NBC. Overall, the Contender Boats 300 at Homestead-Miami is a great race and even greater with him in the field.
Watch Dale Jr. take the green flag for the Contender Boats 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 2:00 PM ET, Saturday, October 21st.