NASCAR & Auto Racing

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s, first season in retirement wasn’t very retiring

Sights and Sounds from NASCAR Championship Weekend at Homestead

The NASCAR Ford Championship weekend takes place at the Miami-Homestead Speedway, ending with the Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex and Joey Logano are the finalists.
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The NASCAR Ford Championship weekend takes place at the Miami-Homestead Speedway, ending with the Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex and Joey Logano are the finalists.

For the first time in decades, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., showed up at NASCAR tracks throughout the season without a ride. And, as a retired driver doing analysis for NBC’s NASCAR Monster Energy series coverage, Earnhardt didn’t want a ride.

At least, not for any race days.

“Just a practice here and there,” Earnhardt said Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway between the last two Monster Energy series practices. “I would love to run this final practice in any of the top 20 or top 30 cars. There’s times when we go to certain tracks -- Martinsville -- I would love to practice. Just run laps. I don’t want to run any races. I never find myself going, ‘Man I’d love to run that whole race.’

“I think that’s healthy to have some of that passion. I think it carries over into my enjoyment of watching what I’m seeing knowing they’re having run. When you’re watching something that you think is fun, it helps you as a broadcaster.”

Still, Earnhardt ran more WFO than he anticipated during the first season of the rest of his life. Just not on the track.

In addition to his broadcast duties and being the owner of the Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick’s car, he worked with ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee on “Racing to the Finish.” The book covers Earnhardt’s final season as injuries yanked him into retirement.

Also, oh, yeah, he’s got a wife, Amy Reimann, and six-month-old daughter. Instead of trying to beat time around a banked curve, Earnhardt’s negotiating a learning curve on managing time. He said he still wants to everything he does with NBC next year, but wants to be more judicious about everything else.

“When I was getting out of driving, I thought, “Wow, I’m just going to have so much time. I’m going to have so much time. What am I going to do? I don’t want to not be busy,’” Earnhardt said. “And we just said yes to whatever. So, I filled up my year pretty quick. This month has been tough, we had the book tour, we had all the races. My wife really wasn’t happy with me this month.”

His favorite part of the book concerns being able to put on the record Reimann’s role in the last year of his career.

“She was in every particular part of it, from when I was getting injured, to rehab, to every meeting with my doctor,” Earnhardt said. “She was so supportive and being able to tell people about that. Some of the diehard fans were thinking I retired because of getting married and wanting to start a family. That’s not true. I would still be racing if I hadn’t have gotten hurt.”

Earnhardt found himself surprised by the toll doing the book took on him.

“(He and McGee) would sit down for about four hours and the whole next day I felt hungover, mentally,” Earnhardt said. “Just drained and exhausted. I didn’t expect it to be as mentally exhausting as it was.

“Same thing like broadcasting,” he continued. “I didn’t think that was as difficult mentally as it is. You’re not physically tired, but you really are taxing yourself mentally in some of these races. to be thinking on the fly and all the time staying alert, listening to so many voices. Writing the book was kind of the same thing.”

Driver Tyler Reddick (9) lifts the NASCAR xfinity Series Championship Trophy after winning the race during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway on Saturday, November 17, 2018.

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