But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t ever have a third.
During a question-and-answer session with reporters after opening practice at Sonoma Raceway, Earnhardt allowed he might consider an encore appearance in NASCAR’s most prestigious race—under the right circumstances.
True, next week Earnhardt will compete for the last time at Daytona as the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. But that doesn’t mean it’s the last time he’ll compete at Daytona.
“Well, you never say never,” Earnhardt said. “I’m just retiring from full-time racing. I’m going to run some Xfinity races next year. I don’t know that I won’t ever run the Daytona 500 again, if the right deal comes along. All these tracks you have memories at, all of them, Daytona included.
“I’m going to be coming back to these tracks, and I want to continue to be part of the sport. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me really. It’s hard for me to put that into words, because I don’t know what that is going to feel like. It will be pretty weird I think to come back to the 500. I’m going to go to the 500 whether I’ve got any work to do or not. It will be pretty weird to be there and not race.”
To some degree, Earnhardt can draw on the experience of his former crew chief, Steve Letarte, who left the pit box for a perch in the NBC Sports television booth.
“When he wasn’t working a race he had a hard time being there,” Earnhardt said. “He had a hard time watching it and not wanting to be a part of it… It will be interesting I guess when we get to the 500 next year and see how that all feels emotionally.”
Earnhardt also addressed reports that he, too, might be under consideration for a broadcasting role.
“We are certainly open to discussing the possibility of seeing what options I have,” Earnhardt said. “Who wanted us, what kind of job they want me for, and we are sort of in the middle of understanding that, and that just goes along the lines of doing due diligence on everything. I’m not retiring from work. I want to keep seeking out opportunities to make a living and make money and be relevant and be a value to my partners.
“I want to continue to be a part of the sport, and not just as an owner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. I want to be a valuable asset to the growth of the sport and continue to help raise the bar and raise the awareness of the sport and promote the sport as much as I can. So we were just kind of looking at what opportunities there are out there for me.”