Retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. is taking the weekend off from his NBC Sports broadcasting gig after he, his wife and young daughter were hospitalized following their plane’s crash landing in Tennessee yesterday.
Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy, 15-month-old daughter Isla, a dog and two pilots were aboard the plane as it arrived at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Carter County. Suddenly the aircraft slid off the end of the runway and caught fire. All on board the craft made it out safely. Earnhardt Jr. and his family were taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
The 44-year-old retired racer was scheduled to announce Saturday night’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race in Bristol, Tennessee. Earnhardt Jr., who retired from racing full-time in 2017, has been a NASCAR analyst for NBC.
“We’re incredibly grateful that Dale, his wife Amy, daughter Isla, and the two pilots are safe following today’s accident,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “After being discharged from the hospital, we communicated with Dale and his team, and we’re all in agreement that he should take this weekend off to be with his family. We look forward to having him back in the booth next month at Darlington.”
The plane involved in the crash is registered to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race team, JR Motorsports. The former driver of car No. 88 is expected to return to the broadcast booth Labor Day weekend when NASCAR’s premier series returns to Darlington, S.C. for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
The incident came 26 years after former driver and 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki died in a plane crash while on his way to the spring race at Bristol from a promotional appearance in Knoxville. That crash at Tri-City Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee, killed a total of four people.
Earnhardt was part of Rick Hendrick’s racing team in 2011 when Hendrick broke a rib and a collarbone while on a small jet that lost its brakes and crash landed in an airport at Key West, Florida. Hendrick’s son, brother and twin nieces were among 10 people killed in a 2004 plane crash traveling to a race in Virginia.