Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 'thankful' to be at Darlington Raceway, ready to 'move on' | Sporting News

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is glad to be back on the racetrack.

The NASCAR star has had to overcome a near-death experience when he, his wife Amy, and their daughter were involved in a crash after Earnhardt’s private jet veered off the runway and burst into flames at a small Tennessee airport earlier this month.

Earnhardt has since been planning to participate in the Xfinity Series race on Aug. 31 at Darlington Raceway and addressed media Friday ahead of the weekend’s festivities.​

“I’m just thankful and ready to live our lives,” Earnhardt said.​

He added: “Things have been great. … We’ve been just, you know, taking some time to ourselves.

“I’m excited to be back at a track. This is familiar to me.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, airport surveillance video showed Earnhardt’s plane’s right main landing gear collapse shortly after the final touchdown, leading part of the right wing to hit the ground. By the time the airplane came to a stop, the nose and left main landing gear had been “separated from the airframe” while the right main landing gear was still attached but “heavily fire damaged.”

The plane was in the air for only 18 minutes after taking off from Statesville Regional Airport in North Carolina.

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“It was a very tough experience to go through,” Earnhardt said. “I try not to get into that. Things happen for a reason. You just try to learn from it and move on.”​

Earnhardt will be driving the No. 8 car which features a throwback paint scheme inspired by a design his late father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., ran in his very first Cup Series start.

This will be his first race since the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway in 2018.

He finished second in that event.