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Earnhardt Jr., wife OK after Tenn. plane crash

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will take the weekend off from broadcasting to be with his wife and daughter after the three were in a plane crash-landing Thursday near Bristol Motor Speedway.

The 44-year-old television analyst and former NASCAR Cup Series driver was taken to a hospital for evaluation after the crash in East Tennessee. Earnhardt was with his wife, Amy; 15-month-old daughter, Isla; a dog; and two pilots.

There were no serious injuries beyond cuts and abrasions, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said.

“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.”

Mike Davis, Earnhardt’s manager, told ESPN’s Marty Smith that Earnhardt and his family were traveling to their North Carolina home by car Thursday night.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said a Cessna Citation rolled off the end of a runway and caught fire after landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport at 3:40 p.m. CT on Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it was sending two representatives to Elizabethton to investigate the crash.

This incident comes 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, Tennessee. That crash at Tri-City Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee, killed four people.

Earnhardt was part of Rick Hendrick’s racing team in 2011 when Hendrick broke a rib and his 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 crash of a plane traveling to a race in Virginia.

This isn’t the first fiery crash for Earnhardt. He still has a burn scar on his neck from a crash at Sonoma in 2004 during warm-ups for an American Le Mans Series race, which left him with second-degree burns.

Earnhardt has a history of concussions that plagued him over his final years as a driver.

He won NASCAR’s most popular driver award a record 15 times, with 26 career Cup victories.

Earnhardt retired from Cup Series competition in 2017 after dealing with a number of concussions. He ran one Xfinity Series race in 2018 and is scheduled to drive in the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway on Aug. 31.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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