Dale Earnhardt Jr. Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway
NASCAR has been back for just under a month at this point in time since their return from the COVID-19 pandemic that shut the sports world in North America down cold. This marks a busy week for the circuit as Kevin Harvick prevailed in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 last Sunday. That was followed by Martin Truex Jr. earning the win in the Blu Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Wednesday night. This weekend will have the Dixie 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday afternoon in the first race to have fans in attendance since the race at Phoenix back on March 8.
There is other big news cycling around this weekend’s races, which will also feature a pair of Xfinity Series races and a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race as well. In Saturday’s Hooters 250, which is a Xfinity Series race, the NASCAR circuit will see a familiar face taking the track for the first time in nearly a year. Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose last spin came at Darlington in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on August 31, 2019, finishing fifth in that race, will get back behind the wheel of the #8 car in the Hooters 250.
Back in February before he waved the green flag at the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. talked about how he missed being behind the wheel and racing.
“I really miss racing. I really miss driving, and it’s getting worse. I thought as I got out of the car and the further I got from my full-time career, the less that would bother me, but it actually is getting worse for some reason. I really look forward to getting some seat time, smelling the smells and hearing the noises and just enjoying being in the car.”
Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time driving at the end of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Since that point, he has made just single appearances in the Xfinity Series in both 2018 (at Richmond) and in 2019 (at Darlington) as he has eased into retirement. Homestead wasn’t his greatest track when he was racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series as he turned in only one top-five showing and two top-10 finishes in his 17 starts there. His best showing was a third-place finish back in 2013. In five Xfinity Series runs at the track, his best finish was a second-place showing back in 1999.
The return of Earnhardt Jr., even if it is just the one-off that we have seen in the last couple of seasons, is another nice boost for the NASCAR circuit and its popularity. Ratings continue to be high as the QuikTrip 500 posted a 2.46 rating and drew nearly four million viewers. According to reports, the Martinsville race drew a 1.14 rating, which is a 104 percent increase over ratings for the 11th race of the season in 2019. There was a massive upgrade in ratings thanks to the decision to bar the displaying of the Confederate flag in any NASCAR broadcasts.
Will Earnhardt Jr. help drive ratings for the Hooters 250? It’s hard to say but seeing that the ratings for the circuit as a whole have improved markedly this season, his return to the track certainly can’t hurt. He’s finished fourth and fifth in his two Xfinity Series races