Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s highly anticipated return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing is less than one month away. No one is more enthusiastic about the most popular driver’s comeback than Earnhardt, who spoke with media during Wednesday morning’s segment of the 35th Annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt hasn’t competed since last July at Kentucky Speedway when the aftereffects of a concussion he sustained in a crash in June forced an early end to the 26-time race winner’s season. During his time out of the car, Earnhardt had an eventful December which saw the Hendrick Motorsports driver get married and get cleared to return to action this year. He still had a decision to make, though.
“To get approved to race is one thing but to decide to race is another,” Earnhardt said. “You have to make the decision if you want to keep racing and if you want to keep racing you’ve got to give 100 percent. … I had to answer a lot of personal questions from myself and just really buy in (to returning). All of that was a process and I’m really happy with what I decided to do.
“I’m just hoping to enjoy what’s left of my career and hopefully I get to make the decisions myself as far as how much longer I want to race. I’m really excited about my future.”
Earnhardt’s recent past isn’t bad, either. From 2014-’15, he won seven races – including a second Daytona 500 in 2014.
“Being out of the car, you hope you can come back in jump back in and not miss a beat, but this is the top series and any time away you’re getting behind,” Earnhardt said. “I’m really anxious and curious as to where we shake up early in the season, how competitive we can be and if there’s any learning curve.
“People have asked me since I turned 40 when I will retire. All I’ve ever said is that I want to be able to make that decision myself. I don’t know when I’m going to stop racing but I want to be able to make that choice and not have it made for me. All that stuff really showed me how much I’ve got going for me and how fun this really is. You can make it really difficult or you can enjoy it. This is an incredible position to be in. … I can see how you can get burned out a little bit but I’m certainly not feeling that way right now.”