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NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. Interested in Cup Series Competition as Owner, under the Right Circumstances

As the face of JR Motorsports’ ownership, the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and his sister Kelley have thought about making the jump from competing in the Xfinity Series to NASCAR’s top flight, but he cautions it has to "make sense."  

By Andrew Woodin
Dale Earnhardt Jr leaning against his racecar

After racking up 26 premier series victories, including six wins at Talladega Superspeedway and a pair of Daytona 500 checkered flags, it’s safe to say NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., knows a thing or two about cruising to success in the elite NASCAR Cup Series.

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That success as a driver helped lay the foundation for his future success as an owner of the Xfinity Series team, JR Motorsports. After winning three Xfinity championships (2014, 2017 and 2018), Earnhardt Jr., it's only natural to wonder whether Junior and his sister Kelley, who is the co-owner and CEO of JR Motorsports, have their eyes on the next level of competition.

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Earnhardt Jr. made a recent appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and revealed that, while he wants to compete in the elite Cup Series as an owner, it’s got to be on his terms as he will never settle to be just an in-name-only sponsor for an existing team. That desire to call his own shots and run an organization like he sees fit, as Junior notes, has created some speed bumps in his road back to the Cup Series.

Dale and Amy Earnhardt with their two daughters

“There is zero movement on our end,” Junior revealed. “You know, me and my sister Kelley, LW and everybody at JR Motorsports are always looking forward for an opportunity to get into the Cup Series. We’re interested in that, but it has to make sense.”

Making sense and making sense of the dollars are two completely different things. No current owner of any of the lower racing tiers is arguably more fit than Earnhardt Jr. to command a team in NASCAR’s top flight, but moving from the Xfinity Series and into the acclaimed Cup Series is a massive undertaking – one that he must carefully weigh the pros and cons of, not just for the JR Motorsports organization, but for his family as well.

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“I think beyond just trying to get into the Cup Series,” he added. “I think about my own family, my kids their futures, and what I need to do, and what’s smart for me personally, financially to make sure that long after I’m gone, everything is in good order.”

“For me personally, to take such a large risk financially, I feel like I’m being a bit selfish, so, me and Kelley I think would be more interested in a partnership of some kind to get ourselves to that level. And there are opportunities there, but they haven’t felt just right.”

As Junior explains, the right feel comes with the full autonomy to run a team the exact way he wants to instead of just being a prestigious name to bolster another team’s brand.

“Another key component for me and JR Motorsports is that we want to manage the team,” continued Junior. “We don't want to slap our name on a current product or an organization. ... We don't wanna do that. We want to run our team out of our building and manage the decision on personnel and all of those things."   

“Checking all of those boxes is hard,” Junior revealed candidly. “All of the opportunities that have come our way haven’t checked all those boxes, and I don’t think we’re willing to compromise just to be there.”

“That’s not a reason to do it.”