Dale Earnhardt Jr. open to racing in NASCAR's Daytona Clash in 2018
As it stands now, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is scheduled to be the final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start for Dale Earnhardt Jr. but that could come with a catch if the popular superstar can win a pole over the next seven months.
Earnhardt just missed out on his first pole of the season on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. Even though the 42-year-old is set to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of the season, he expressed interest in running the pre-season Clash at Daytona next year.
However, to enter the race, he would first need to win a pole this season. The event is open to previous winners but he declined that provision last year to allow Alex Bowman to drive his No. 88 because he won a pole with the car at Phoenix International Raceway.
So if Earnhardt can successfully do what he came close to doing on Saturday and win a pole, expect him to lobby to compete in the exhibition event.
“I’ve got a get-in-the-Clash free card from this year, so I got a credit,” Earnhardt said. “If I get a pole, I’ll talk to [team owner] Rick [Hendrick] and see if I can line something up. The Clash isn’t really an official race. It would be fun to talk about it.”
Earnhardt has made a point to say that he isn’t retiring from racing after this season, but just full-time Cup Series competition. He already has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts lined up for 2018 and has expressed interest in driving Late Models when he gets the itch to race.
“I’ll just have to see how much I’ve got as far as how much I want to do that,” Earnhardt said on Friday at Talladega. “I have access to the cars that we have in our Late Model program. We are going to run some Xfinity races and we’ll see.
“If the itch gets too bad we will have to go to the track and have some fun.”
Even with a willingness to do it, Earnhardt said he wouldn’t have a rigid schedule for any Late Model effort.
“I’m certainly still open to that,” Earnhardt said. “It certainly just depends on the side of the bed you wake up on as to whether you want to go over to Hickory and fool around and have some fun. I mean those guys are serious.
“They are not out there goofing off as a hobby, so if you are going to go do it, you better be ready to get after it. I’ve been over there and watched them. They are trying to do the same thing I was when I was running late models was trying to get up to the next level.”