Grateful Earnhardt Jr. ready for normalcy at Darlington

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Austin Dillon drives a car painted with a throwback scheme from the Dale Earnhardt era into Turn 1 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto racing practice session at Darlington Raceway, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. is grateful to be back at Darlington Raceway preparing to drive two weeks after he and his family escaped a plane in flames following a crash in Tennessee.

Earnhardt, set to drive the Xfinity Series event here Saturday, said he and his wife Amy are still processing the frightening events Aug. 15 at the airstrip in Elizabethton, where he had flown to call the Bristol race as an analyst for NBC Sports.

Earnhardt was with Amy, year-old daughter Isla, two pilots and the family dog. Investigators say the plane bounced multiple times during a crash landing and veered off the runway before ending up on a highway in flames. Everyone aboard was safe, though the 44-year-old Earnhardt received treatment on his sore back to ensure he could race at Darlington.

It will be his first time driving in NASCAR since finishing fourth at Richmond last year.

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