Dale Earnhardt Jr. still plans to race next weekend, despite bruises and swelling after plane crash

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still planning on getting back in a race car in two weekends at Darlington Raceway, despite still dealing with some minor injuries from the plane crash he and his family were in last week.

Earnhardt, his wife, Amy, their daughter, Isla, their dog, Gus, and two pilots were on the private plane that slide off the runway after landing and caught fire at an airport in Tennessee. Everyone is OK, and Dale Jr. took the Bristol Motor Speedway weekend off from broadcasting for NBC.

After all that, it’s reasonable for fans to wonder if Earnhardt still plans to get behind the wheel at Darlington in the second-tier XFINITY Series on August 31.

Despite a bruised lower back and “[l]ots of swelling”, that answer is yes — but he has a backup plan just in case. It’s clear he really wants to race.

Earnhardt retired from full-time racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

But since then, he’s been competing in one race a season in the second-tier XFINITY Series for his own team, JR Motorsports. In 2018, he drove the No. 88 Chevrolet at Richmond Raceway, qualified second and led for a race-high 96 laps before finishing fourth.

As NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver, Earnhardt occasionally racing is a big deal for JR Nation. But it would be understandable if he opted not to race at Darlington, given recent events.

(Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)

However, Earnhardt is one of the most health-conscious drivers — he’s been incredibly vocal about concussion safety and awareness in NASCAR and plans to donate his brain for research — so it’s also fair to assume he wouldn’t get back in the car if it wasn’t safe for him.

Monday, Earnhardt released a statement about the plane crash, thanking everyone for their support, saying, “We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries”.

So as of now, fans can expect to see Dale Jr. race in the XFINITY Series’ Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on at 4 p.m. ET on August 31 at Darlington.

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