In his first start since 2017’s Monster Energy Cup Series finale at Homestead, Earnhardt played a starring role in his JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. As well as leading the most laps at 96, he won the second stage of the event – his first-ever stage win in NASCAR competition.
A couple of late-race restarts derailed his bid for victory, however, and after the race he admitted of being wary around championship contenders around him in the first round of the series’ playoffs.
“I messed up – it got all my expectations messed up, I was like ‘dang, I gotta win now!’” he quipped in his post-race NBC interview about running up front. “We didn’t have the car at the end. Restarting on the outside was kinda tough, and we didn’t quite have what we needed.
“I’m glad we got to lead a lot of laps and run real good for all the people who came out to watch us. Y’know, these guys are running for a championship, I didn’t want to mess anybody up. I was trying to respect them a little bit.”
Earnhardt ran this race due to a longstanding agreement with Unilever’s Hellmann’s brand, and after the race he confirmed this will happen again in 2019.
“I had fun, we’ll try and do another one next year, we’ll see where we go,” said Earnhardt. “We’ll be with Hellmann’s again, and I’m looking forward to figuring out what race that’s going to be.”
Earnhardt will now return to his regular commentary role with NBC, having been its in-race reporter during the event.