Reality beginning to set in for Earnhardt as Cup career begins to end

Nigel Kinrade/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

As the sun begins to set on his career, the emotions of retirement have begun to overtake Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he prepares for his final race as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in about a week and a half.

One may not see Earnhardt as a guy who shows tons of emotion, but the emotions of retirement are starting to swell and could burst any minute. Earnhardt felt that he needed to apologize on Friday at Phoenix Raceway.

“Yeah, I feel like I almost need to apologize because I’ve got a pregnant wife, I’m retiring and I just feel like I’m going to break down any minute.  I feel like every answer that I have has some sort of sad undertones and very emotional temperament, but I… yeah, it’s starting to really sink in.  I hadn’t felt much,” said Earnhardt.

During the week, Earnhardt went hunting and was able to not think about his career as a Cup driver being over in two weeks. Now that he is at Phoenix Raceway, the reality of retiring is back.

“I think after Texas, I don’t know, I went hunting for a couple of days, so I didn’t really have to think about it too much, but got here and I’m like, man it’s just a week away.”

At Homestead, Earnhardt will be making his 631st start in the Cup Series after making his debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 1999. Earnhardt knows that he is not ready for the emotional instability that will come next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I am not sure that I’m like just ready to be going through all of that emotion that I will have in Homestead, but it’s coming.  I hope that I can handle it well, but it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how that feels.”

Over the past couple of weeks, videos have arisen on social media by partners have contributed to the emotions for Earnhardt. Earnhardt is appreciative of the content being produced.

“All these videos and all these things that our partners are creating, this content has just been incredible.  It makes you feel so good in your heart.  The comments from fans.  It is more than you can process and I’m sure that Homestead is just going to be like the cork coming out of the bottle.”

Luckily, Earnhardt will be able to lean on his wife, Amy, his family, and his team next weekend at Homestead for the emotional support. Earnhardt knows that next weekend will be heavy not only for his support system, but his fans as well.

“I’m lucky that Amy is going to be there, I’m lucky my family will be there and my team. I will have so much support and I want to support them.  It’s going to be emotional for them and our fans.  I don’t know really how to describe it, but I hope that you guys don’t mind it being a little bit heavy.”

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