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Dale Earnhardt Jr. gives insights into talks with family, team owner about retirement

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announces his retirement

Surrounded by family and friends, including Rick Hendrick, Earnhardt says he'll wrap it up at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season as a regular driver.
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Surrounded by family and friends, including Rick Hendrick, Earnhardt says he'll wrap it up at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season as a regular driver.

Before Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement earlier this week, he broke the news to those closest to him – in his family and racing ventures – and sought their advice on rolling out the news.

Earnhardt offered insights into some of those conversations in his weekly podcast, recorded last weekend but released after Tuesday’s announcement.

Earnhardt said he talked with team owner Rick Hendrick for about two weeks before the announcement.

“We spent an hour and a half ... two hours talking and crying and looking back and looking ahead,” Earnhardt said.

I thought my mom would cry.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt said the Hendrick was “super supportive. The great thing about Rick is that ... our priority to each other is as a person more than it is as owner and driver. ... He’d love for me to keep driving but he wants me to be happy as a person first. That made me comfortable about my decision.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr, right, reaches out to team owner Rick Hendrick during a news conference at Hendrick Motorsports in Concord on Tuesday. Chuck Burton AP

Earnhardt noted that the only thing about his retirement choice that makes him nervous is how others perceive it.

“I’m perfectly comfortable with the choice.”

Earnhardt still has 28 races left in his final NASCAR Cup season. While there may be awkward moments in the coming months, letting his team owner, sponsors, staff and crew know about his retirement in advance gives them to think about their own future. Earnhardt also didn’t want to burden them with keeping the news a secret until the final race in November.

Some of the reactions surprised Earnhardt.

“I thought my mom would cry,” Earnhardt said about Brenda Jackson. “She was completely at ease with it.”

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Amy Earnhardt listens as her husband, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., announce his retirement in Concord on Tuesday. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

In fact, Earnhardt said he’s probably been the one who’s been most emotional during the talks, that of course, included his wife, Amy.

“Amy’s certainly right by my side,” Earnhard said. “Our emotions sort of work in tandem as we both kind of feel what the other one’s been feeling. So it’s been pretty emotional with us.”

But he added, “I like this choice, and I’m at peace with it. It’s my choice.”

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