There's an old saying that goes something along the lines of "the definition of minor surgery is a surgery that's not happening to you."
Well, it might not have looked like much, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in what appeared to be a minor car fire during Friday night's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Hall of Famer, who was making a rare Xfinity start, had to be pulled from his smoky cockpit in the pits.
Earnhardt was racing with the leaders until smoke in the cockpit and heat in the shifter tunnel column forced him into the pits with 30 laps left in the Food City 300 Playoff race that was eventually won by Justin Allgaier.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 16, 2023
“The shifter tunnel column was on fire,” Earnhardt said. “I saw some smoke in the car, and I felt that I was like, ‘Hopefully that's not me,’ but it was. That last lap, I saw a big fireball down in the tunnel of the car and I felt it.
“Obviously, my uniform was burning up. I was like, ‘I can't keep going. I got to stop.’ And usually when you stop the fire gets bigger.
“So I pulled over by the pit stall and some of the guys were pretty alert, and they helped me out. We were going to finish with a top 10, maybe top five. We had a shot at winning it, if the car was going to run good at the end.”
Earnhardt was making his first and only start of the season. He's started one Xfinity Series race per year since his retirement from full-time Cup racing in 2017. This was also his first start at Bristol since 2017.