Earnhardt relieved by form in one-off Xfinity run at Darlington

Dale Earnhardt Jr says he was relieved with how good his form was in his annual one-off NASCAR racing comeback in the Darlington Xfinity race

Earnhardt relieved by form in one-off Xfinity run at Darlington

Though he has mainly focused on television punditry since retiring from full-time competition at the end of 2017, the 44-year-old has maintained an annual tradition of making one start in the second-tier series.

Last weekend's race was also his first appearance at a track since he and his family escaped a fiery plane crash in mid-August.

The pilots, Earnhardt's wife Amy, child and dog were uninjured, while he sustained minor injuries that required hospital checks.

Earnhardt finished sixth on the road at Darlington in his JR Motorsports Chevrolet and was promoted to fifth when winner Denny Hamlin became the highest level victor so far to be disqualified in NASCAR's new crackdown on technical rules infringements.

"You just never know how good you are till you come back and try," said Earnhardt.

"This is elite, all these guys in this field do this every single week and they're very, very talented.

"So to think you can take a whole year off and come back and be good is overthinking it.

"You just never know. I wasn't too sure, but we did alright."

Earnhardt admitted that returning to a racetrack on Friday had given him mixed emotions after the plane crash.

"It was a very scary experience and we're just happy to be healthy and have a weekend like this to look forward to and trying to get back to doing my job as a broadcaster for NBC and all the things we're excited about in our lives," Earnhardt said.

"It's good to be doing something normal. We've been taking some time to ourselves.

"We're very, very blessed, very lucky and very thankful. I just feel very lucky, of course.

"I try not to think about that too much. Things happen for a reason. You just try to learn from it and move on.

"I love my daughter so much and enjoy being around here and look forward to watching her grow up and experiencing a lot of things with her.

"That just made me realise that much more. I'm just thankful and ready to live our lives."

Earnhardt suffered bruising and swelling to his lower back in the crash and admitted he initially "wasn't sure" if he could go ahead with the Darlington race after the crash "but my back healed really quickly".

He drove a two-seater stock car for an hour and a half on the Thursday before the event and "didn't have one issue".

Earnhardt added that he "doesn't have any problem with flying again" but admitted the plane crash "was a very tough experience to go through".

He also hinted that Homestead - which moves from its traditional season finale slot to a mid-March date in 2020 - might be the venue for his one-off race next year, subject to sponsorship deals.

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