What was the coolest text received by the 14-time most popular driver? He won the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014. He has 26 victories and has won more than $95 million in prize money. Hendrick owns a stake in Junior's Xfinity team.
2015: Wins the Coke Zero 400 in another rain-delayed race at Daytona for his 10th career victory on a restrictor-plate track. 42, will retire his racing career by the end of the 2017 season.
Earnhardt says he is committed to participating in two Xfinity Series races in 2018 and that "even after this season, you have not seen the last of me on the racetrack".
I knew the odds of me really having any talent at all and being able to do it were thin. "He made it big, why can't I make it big", driver and Orcutt native Dylan Thornton said. I think that these guys that are coming in, they're really sharp and smart about how to utilize social media, how to engage with fans. "I'm at peace with the decision".
Earnhardt and his family have been close friends with Hendrick for decades.
"He's like a son", said Hendrick. Ultimately, he thanked NASCAR for giving him a place to race: "I've never taken that for granted". "We want what's best for Dale".
However, Earnhardt talked about the Sprint vehicle before he was married and before he suffered the second of his two concussions.
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Earnhardt did have concussion problems last year which kept him out of racing for much of the year. His return wasn't guaranteed.
Earnhardt has been a guest on "60 Minutes", "The Late Show with David Letterman", "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", "Late Night with Conan O'Brien", "The Today Show", "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", "Good Morning America", "Live with Regis and Kelly", "Chelsea", "The Soup", "CBS This Morning" and "Larry King Live".
On the one hand, I am sad to see Dale Jr. go - I'm a position where I've see the drivers of my youth exit the sport, and now I'm seeing the drivers of my teenage years hit their twilight. (Gordon filled in temporarily previous year when Earnhardt was unable to race.) The AP writes that the high-profile departures leave "a major void in NASCAR star power". Sadler was in Birmingham promoting the Talladega Race next month.
"The friendships you make and relationships you have will last forever".
Hendrick has the checkbook to buy out anyone he wants, though he has to keep his sponsors happy and, he hopes, paying the same top dollar that Earnhardt commanded.
Interestingly, Earnhardt deflected any talk of one day elevating the JR Motorsports operation to the Cup Series level, mentioning that his sister and co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller was off to the side, shaking her head. Not only was he the first rookie to win the non-points event, he did so with a thrilling late charge that saw him take the lead from defending Cup champion Dale Jarrett with two laps remaining. Junior was just a year away from getting started when his father won his only Daytona 500 and then was two years in when Dale Sr. was killed at Daytona. His son finished second in that race.
"I knew your daddy pretty well", Hendrick said.
"We're definitely going to leave the book open and continue to do that depending on the packages that come across the table", he said. I just wanted to be able to do it. "I didn't set goals". But that's just me being a bit selfish.
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"I've accomplished way more than I ever dreamed, way more than I thought I would ever accomplish".
Dale Earnhardt Jr. lives with his wife, Amy, whom he married in 2016.
As a result, completing this season was important for Earnhardt.
The expectations for Junior were high the moment he got behind the wheel because of the Earnhardt name.
Early in his career, it was easy to see how heavy that weight was to bear for the younger Earnhardt.
"I do have ambition to work", Earnhardt said. A lot of folks I've known all my life. Others have assumed Edwards has had his eye on Earnhardt's seat - or another big ride - all along.
"To say I'm not going to be here one day is hard".
"I feel good. We'll get in here and find out", he said as he walked to the care center. "He would be very proud". Earnhardt Jr. noted that his own family immigrated from Germany in the 1700s to escape religious persecution. But in other, perhaps more important ways, he is at the front of the field.
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