Landing last week’s pole for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway gave Earnhardt an automatic spot in February’s Clash and the personal validation he felt he needed to consider interrupting his retirement from full-time racing for the annual exhibition race.
Not so automatic: approval from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s wife, Amy.
You might not want to go to the party, but you’re upset if you don’t get the invitation.
Dale Earnhardt, on how getting an automatic qualifier to the Clash feels
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The couple talked this week about the Clash, which takes place a week before the Daytona 500, on Earnhardt’s weekly podcast.
Earnhardt plans to retire from full-time racing when the current Cup Series season ends in November. By the time the Clash is run in February, Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, will have a new driver for his No. 88 car that Earnhardt pilots now.
That doesn’t rule out a one-race run for Earnhardt, but perhaps his wife has other plans in mind?
“You’re retiring, and now you’re wanting to consider running the Clash? Or was that a joke?” Amy Earnhardt asked.
“I think ‘joke’ is a strong word,” her husband replied. “... If you get an invitation in the mail. it’s nice, right?
“... And that’s kind of what getting the pole and getting an opportunity to run in the Clash is. It’s like getting an invitation. You might not want to go to the party, but you’re upset if you don’t get the invitation.”
‘Two bosses now’
The couple had more to say to each other about the Clash.
“But Mr. H (Rick Hendrick) mentioned it to me when we were in Victory Lane for William Byron as if you had discussed it with him already,” Amy Earnhardt recalled. “So ... to be continued.”
“I told him (Rick Hendrick) that if I were to run the Clash that you were going to be the one that he’d have to warm up to about it,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. explained. “So maybe that’s why he reached out.”
Earnhardt jokingly then spoke to Hendrick, letting the team owner know that his wife was his “new agent” and another boss.
Earnhardt said his new stock answer to anyone asking if he intended to run the Clash would be, “I’ll see what the boss says. And everyone’s rebuttal was ‘Is that Amy or Rick?’ Because I have two bosses now.”
Amy Earnhardt agreed. “Yeah, you do.”
So, to be continued ...
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