Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t just returning to his racing roots, but NASCAR’s racing roots.
He’s announced he’ll race in the Aug. 31 late-model event that will help reintroduce North Wilkesboro and its grand old half-mile speedway, to the stock-car world.
His car will carry the logo and colors of Sun Drop soda, which was his sponsor as a teenager when he raced late-models at the historic track in northern North Carolina.
“I came to North Wilkesboro so many times as a kid,” Earnhardt Jr. said in making his announcement. “It’s a special place. I never thought I’d get a chance to race around here again.
“To put this program together with Sun Drop, who sponsored my late model in ’93, I wouldn’t want it any other way. They were with my dad for years and one of my first sponsors.”
KYLE BUSCH:2-time champ’s ‘sugar daddy’ is leaving, and his NASCAR future is unsettled KEN WILLIS
THROUGH THE GEARS:Tyler Reddick does it again; Chase Elliott has competition for NASCAR’s top “road warrior”
NASCAR’s top series raced at North Wilkesboro from its inaugural “strictly stock” season in 1949 through 1996, when modern scheduling desires left the small, rural track in the rearview mirror.
The track fell into disrepair until recent renovations began putting it back in racing shape. Much of the funding came from federal money allocated to the state of North Carolina as part of a pandemic relief package.
The Aug. 31 racing will be sanctioned by the CARS Tour, a series that runs three different late-model divisions throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. It’s been around since 2014.
Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time racing in 2017, after 18 full-time Cup Series seasons, 26 wins, and countless “Most Popular Driver” honors. Prior to that, he won back-to-back Busch Series (now Xfinity) championships in 1998-99.
Prior to that, he raced a handful of Busch Series races while also racing late-models throughout the Southeast, including at North Wilkesboro. As a racing history buff, this was a natural fit for Junior.
“Seeing the Sun Drop Chevy at Wilkesboro again will bring back some great memories for me,” he said.
Over the past five seasons, he has raced once a year in the Xfinity Series, where he owns a race team. This year, he’s happily adding another event to his schedule.