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Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes 9th in South Carolina 400 return

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes 9th in South Carolina 400 return
Former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. sits in the restored 1984 Chevy Nova driven by his father the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. on pit road prior to the Steakhouse Elite 200 at Darlington Raceway back in 2021. (Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. (BVM) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his return back to the track over the weekend for the 30th running of the South Carolina 400 late model stock car race. Earnhardt, who hasn’t raced at the Florence Motor Speedway since the 1990s, found a way to finish ninth after working his way up from his qualified position of 26th.

Late-race penalties made things interesting but Earnhardt enjoyed his experience after some initial worries in qualifying.

“It was wild,” Earnhardt told Frontstretch of his weekend. “I had a really fast car, I should have run second. I made a couple of big mistakes that cost us a lot of track position. I spun the [No.] 51 on the back-straight away that sent me to the rear and then I spun the [No.] 0 into one, running fifth, and they sent me to the rear again. So, those are a couple big mistakes that you can’t make but it was a fast car, fun, I saved the tires, had some good race car at the end when I needed it. One of the fastest cars there on the track so can’t complain.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Daytona
Daytona 500 grand marshall Dale Earnhardt Jr. prior to the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. (Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

After working his way into contention ahead of the final 50-lap run, Earnhardt made contact with Matt Cox down the backstretch while the two were racing for third. Officials penalized Earnhardt, sending him to the back of the pack with just 13-laps to go. 

While making his attempt back into the top half following the incident, Earnhardt was once again penalized after making contact with Landon Pembelton. The crash with just three laps left would result in Earnhardt’s ninth-place finish.

“It’s a fun little race track,” Earnhardt said. “[Florence general manager] Steve Zacharias and his team have done an amazing job with the race track, trying to do everything they can. They don’t have a whole lot of funding and they got the place looking really good.

“It’s fun and I want to come back. Had a good time. The car was fast and I think we can come back here and have some more fun. We’ll see.”

While making the most of his opportunity, Earnhardt partnered with Bass Pro Shops before the race for his No. 3 car, as the team delivered a throwback to the car his father drove in the 1998 NASCAR All-Star Race.