Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sep 15, 2023; Bristol, Tennessee, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) during driver introductions at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has still got it at age 48.

The veteran driver, who retired from full-time competition after the 2017 season, made a one-off start in the Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway Friday night, and Junior did far more than make a token appearance.

With a little luck, he might have driven right into victory lane.

The two-time series champion started 15th, but moved into the top 10 in the first stage. After a great pit stop he started Stage 2 in fourth place.

Earnhardt Jr. started the race’s third stage in the lead, and he was running in the top five with 30 laps to go when a mechanical issue ended his night.

Earnhardt Jr. finished in 30th place, hardly an indication of how well he had run all night. At least he could celebrate something else — his JR Motorsports driver, Justin Allgaier, won the playoff race.

Afterward, Earnhardt Jr. said his shifter tunnel caught on fire, and he showed off his charred driver’s suit in the NASCAR on NBC broadcast.

“I saw some smoke in the car, smelled it and thought, ‘Hopefully that’s not me,'” Earnhardt Jr. said.

The popular Earnhardt Jr. has been a huge fan favorite his entire career, winning the NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver Award 15 times. So fans loved seeing Junior running out front one more time in his trademark No. 88, if only for a night.

[Awful Announcing]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.