Although he is retired from full-time racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has a driving itch to scratch every once in a while. Since 2018, he has run one NASCAR Xfinity Series event each year, and the annual start will continue in 2022. In the latest episode of his podcast The Dale Jr. Download released Tuesday, Earnhardt confirmed he will enter the Xfinity race at Martinsville Speedway on 8 April 2022. He will drive for his JR Motorsports team with sponsorship from Unilever.
After retiring from Cup Series competition at the end of 2017, Earnhardt has conducted Xfinity one-offs for JRM. He finished fourth in his 2018 start at Richmond, followed by fifth at Darlington in 2019, fifth at Homestead in 2020, and fourteenth at Richmond last September. He is a two-time Xfinity champion with twenty-four career victories, the most recent coming at Richmond in 2016.
Earnhardt has never raced at Martinsville in the Xfinity Series, though this is due to the Virginia circuit not being on the calendar when he was a regular during his championship-winning seasons in 1998 and 1999. Martinsville was added to the Xfinity calendar in 2020 before expanding to two dates for 2021. He won at the half-mile track in the Cup Series in 2014; in thirty-five career Cup starts at Martinsville, he recorded the 2014 win, thirteen top fives, and eighteen top tens.
“When it gets down to it, what type of racing do I love to do? It’s short track racing,” said Earnhardt on the DJD. “It’s bumper to bumper, half mile, trading paint, and I’m gonna do a little bit of that next year.”
The episode release comes on the same day as Earnhardt participating in another short track event as he, Tony Stewart, and Clint Bowyer tested the Next Gen car at the quarter-mile Bowman Gray Stadium. The session was intended to see the seventh-generation vehicle’s capabilities in stadium short track racing, an environment in which it will début in 2022 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Despite Earnhardt’s lack of Xfinity experience at Martinsville, it been the site of JRM success in the past. Josh Berry, who won there in late models, scored his maiden Xfinity win in April as he and Noah Gragson notched a JRM 1–2 finish. Since its inclusion on the Xfinity calendar in 2020, JRM drivers have never finished outside the top ten with Michael Annett‘s tenth in the spring race being their worst finish; Mark McFarland, currently a crew chief for newly crowned ARCA Menards Series champion Ty Gibbs, finished sixteenth in a one-off in 2006.