This week, NASCAR fans welcome the return of Chicagoland Speedway summer action (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and it’s probably fair to say they are equally as excited about who will help narrate the story — the sport’s 15-time Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After stepping away from the driver’s seat on a full-time basis following the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Miami, Earnhardt essentially has been preparing to make his television debut in the NBC Sports announcing booth — a career move that looks promising for both Earnhardt and the sport’s rabid fandom.
Earnhardt already has put in work during the network’s Winter Olympics broadcasts and has been a frequent contributor to its weekday NASCAR show segments. Having the latter half of the season on-air has, in a sense, given him plenty of time to adjust to his new off-track reality.
FOX Sports hands the NASCAR race broadcast this week to NBC and its highly anticipated new hire. For good measure and maximum star shine, NASCAR’s favorite son will continue to help promote the changeover — for example, appearing on Megyn Kelly TODAY, the Dan Patrick Show, E! News and the Tonight Show — all on Wednesday.
Since his last Cup race, Junior has been similarly busy.
His gig with NBC Sports has included time on television at the NHL Finals, and he and his wife Amy were featured in a four-part show with DIY Network showing the renovation of their Key West home.
He saw his longtime and hugely popular “Dale Jr. Download” podcast get picked up for television by NBCSN, and he has spent a lot of thoughtful time on social media offering insight and opinions on things from the benefits of iRacing to helpful baby swing elevation angles.
He and his JR Motorsports NASCAR Xfinity Series team celebrated its impressive 40th win, courtesy of Justin Allgaier at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago. And Earnhardt donned a dress suit to cut the ribbon officially opening another of his Whiskey River restaurant franchises at the RDU International Airport near Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
It has been a big few years in Junior’s life, from stepping away from the driver’s seat full-time, to marrying his long-time love Amy on New Year’s Eve 2016, to welcoming their first child, daughter Isla Rose, this April 30.
If you thought Junior would be bored and longing to take a green flag after 19 years of NASCAR competition highlighted by back-to-back Xfinity championships and two Daytona 500 victories, well, that hasn’t necessarily been the case.
Instead, beginning this weekend, he will be talking, evaluating and prognosticating as his former competitors take the green flag. By all accounts, it’s difficult to determine who is more excited about this — Junior or the NASCAR fans.
It’s a strong and vital connection between Earnhardt and the sport he loves. And the fans, who have long kept him in their hearts, seemingly could not be more eager for the opportunity to simultaneously welcome their hero back to the track and into their homes.
—By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media