Last Friday proved to be quite a night for Dale Earnhardt Jr. The NASCAR Hall of Famer made his long-awaited return to racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt looked like he hadn't missed a step, leading 47 laps during the NASCAR Xfinity Series' Food City 300.
His night went up in smoke, however, with 30 laps to go in the race. During the race, a fire broke out in the interior of his No.88 race car. He knew as soon as he saw the smoke that it was time to bail. and luckily he was able to get his car to the pit lane and had help climbing from his car.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 16, 2023
Earnhardt spoke to the media, following the race that saw one of his drivers for his team, Justin Allgaier win. Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass was able to catch his reaction, and Earnhardt saw and felt.
"So it started smoking, and I thought- Well, I started smelling something first. I thought, 'Man, maybe that's the car in front of me, hopefully, it's the car in front of me. Then I started seeing a lot of smoke around the dash and above the dash," Earnhardt said. "I thought we just had some rubber build-up on the pipes. I was telling the team about it so maybe they could see through the wheels, maybe they could see a fire in there. ... And then it was getting worse. The smoke was getting worse. I had them boys racing for the lead right in front of me, and I looked down at the leg brace and it was on fire. And I felt this sting in my leg. I thought, 'Well, I can't keep going.'"
Dale Earnhardt Jr. explains what he felt in the car when it caught fire and what caused the fire. He said he does not have any burns on his leg (his firesuit has a hole in the leg). pic.twitter.com/Zl7FdPxm2V
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 16, 2023
Earnhardt was glad he didn't get burned and made sure to say that he made the right decision getting out of the car. He did have a nice burn hole in his fire suit. So his night wasn't all for nothing in that regard.
Earnhardt sure seemed to be glad to be back behind the wheel of a NASCAR. Bristol may have not turned out the way he had hoped for, but he has one more race to look forward to, and he will be ready to get after it at Homestead in a few weeks he told NBC Sports' Kim Coon.
"I'm going to Homestead, so I'll see everybody there," Earnhardt said. "We'll have some fun at Homestead riding the fence."
It's good to see a little in-car fire didn't deter Earnhardt's determination to still get behind the wheel of a race car. The fans will surely agree.
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