CONCORD, N.C. – Before Dale Earnhardt Jr. shared his retirement decision with the world on Tuesday, he had a podcast to record.
Monday afternoon, he sat down with co-host Tyler Overstreet to record the latest episode of the “Dale Jr. Download.” And the two discussed the news throughout the episode, which was published Tuesday evening.
“We’ve got a lot to talk about,” Earnhardt began. “Big announcement. As a lot of you are going to find out, or already know, at this point in the afternoon I have announced my retirement from full-time Cup racing.”
The driver went on to explain his thought process, providing a glimpse into his mindset as he worked to recover from a concussion that cost him 18 races last season.
Ultimately, he made it clear that he wanted to honor the final year of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick – and go out on his own terms.
“Personally, there were two choices,” Earnhardt explained. “Basically, the sport either retires you or you retire on your own. I came close to having the sport retire me over the course of last season. I was thankful and still am thankful today that I’m able to be healthy and continue to compete.
“At the end of the season, I’m going to call it a career. It’s been amazing.”
When asked who has been the most emotional as he has shared the news with friends, family and teammates, Earnhardt laughed and said that it has probably been him.
But the driver’s focus is still firmly on making the remainder of 2017 count – a sentiment echoed by No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives.
“We’ve got a lot of racing left in the season, and I don’t want to miss a lap,” Earnhardt said. “I’m looking forward to every single track we go to. I would love nothing more than to win some races this final season. And that’s that.”
There are still more than two dozen races left, and Earnhardt expects to have the No. 88 Chevrolet SS in the thick of things.
“My message to my team is that it’s business as usual,” he said. “We started the season with a goal to make the (playoffs), to put ourselves in the middle of the battle for the championship. That continues to be the goal.”
Before Earnhardt moved on from the retirement discussion, he asked Overstreet for his thoughts on the news.
“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re going to be around,” the co-host said. “You’re not retiring from life. A lot of people have second careers. So, this is just the start of your second career.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Earnhardt said.
“I like that.”