Dale Earnhardt Jr. has returned to racing after a near-fatal plane crash last month. As NBC Sports reports, Earnhardt Jr. participated in NASCAR’s Infinity event on Saturday August 31 and finished in fifth place. He actually was the sixth driver to cross the finish line but another driver was disqualified.
Even though he lost, after the race Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be happy to be able to compete again.
“It just feels good to be competitive,” he said. “It feels good that everybody has a smile on their face.”
According to NBC, the fans at the race track showed him plenty of support, giving him huge amounts of applause and cheers at the beginning and end of the race.
As Fox News reports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy, and his daughter Isla were in a private plane that ran off a runway in Bristol, Tennessee. The plane is registered to Earnhardt’s Jr.’s racing company JR Motorsports.
As USA Today reports, a preliminary investigation into the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the plane came in for a hard landing and bounced at least twice before it veered off the runway and erupted into flames. However, the safety board hasn’t determined a definitive cause of the accident yet.
Fortunately, Earnhardt Jr. and his family were able to walk away from the crash without any major injuries.
In an interview with Beyond Racing, NASCAR’s SiriusXM radio show, the celebrated race car driver opened up about his health in the aftermath of the crash.
“I had some bad bruising on my back, but I went and got some excellent advice and care and treatment for that, and I’ve been doing a lot at home to bring the swelling down and get rid of a lot of the blood,” he said. “It was just really swollen and bad, but all that’s actually gotten better very quickly. So I think I’m going to be OK.”
During the interview, he mentioned that he was looking forward to driving in the Xfinity race and said that he thought preparing for it would help him to mentally process the effects of the accident.
“I think that’s the hurdle that’s going to be the toughest, just getting past it mentally, getting my confidence back up to get back in an airplane and all those things,” he added.
Entertainment Tonight reports that during the Xfinity race Earnhardt Jr. drove in the No. 8 Chevrolet car for his team JR Motorsports. They also reported the car was painted in an hommage to his father Dale Earnhardt Sr., a NASCAR legend who died on the track at the Daytona 500 in February 2001.