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Watch Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s full interview at Media Day
Catch Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s entire Daytona Media Day interview as he addresses questions regarding retirement, the Daytona 500 and his eventful off-season.
From The Vault: Dale Earnhardt Sr. wins 1998 Daytona 500
Relive the 1998 Daytona 500 that saw Dale Earnhardt Sr. win his only Great American Race.
Earnhardt Jr. would consider walking away as a champion
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Watch Media Day live stream presented by NAPA DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . sat on stage for his Daytona 500 Media Day interview session Wednesday morning and at the end of his 20-plus minutes taking questions, he conceded that if he were to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, he would at least consider stepping away from full-time competition after this season. Earnhardt , who will start on the front row for the Daytona 500 , is returning to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup competition for the first time since last July -- sitting out the second half of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion-like symptoms. WATCH: The full interview with Junior The two-time Daytona 500 winner and restrictor-plate racing expert refused to call himself a shoo-in for Sunday's trophy even though he likes his chances. But he did allow that hoisting NASCAR's season-ending trophy may just present the ultimate racing exit for the newly married 42-year-old. "Hell yeah. I would definitely not want to come back and race anymore if I won the championship, I'd be outta of here," he said smiling. "I've always wanted to win a championship so badly. And coming back from this injury, we've worked so hard. So to come back this year and win the championship, it would be hard not to hang it up. "This is the last year of my deal. I would like to race more, but if I won the championship I'd have to consider going out on top." MORE: Junior on marriage " And Ken Squire, broadcasting Earnhardt smiled as he spoke but did pause often to reflect and think. The sport's 14-time -- and reigning -- Most Popular Driver has four top-five finishes in the championship standings, the last a fifth place in 2013. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt , won seven championship trophies, and his Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson just won his seventh in November. "It just really depends on a lot of different things," Earnhardt said, reflecting on the idea of the 2017 championship. "I said that a little tongue in cheek yesterday (that he would retire), but I'd definitely consider it because that's the last box I don't have checked really. "There's a few races I'd like to win. But the championship would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hamlin passes Earnhardt for Duel 2 win at Daytona
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results " Projected lineup " More on the race Denny Hamlin used a push from Austin Dillon and momentum on the outside lane to pass race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr . for the victory in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with two laps to go in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway . The reigning Daytona 500 winner, Hamlin has also won a Duel race twice in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. "We definitely had a strong car but so much of that race was single file and so it was really tough to show what we could do in the pack once we got two- and three-wide, but it looked like our car could make some really good moves and got a great push from the 3 (Dillon) there at the end," Hamlin said. "It looked like our cars worked really, really well together there so we’ll keep that in mind when I need somebody to draft with in the 500." Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch finished second and third, respectively, while AJ Allmendinger nabbed a fourth-place result in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon completed the top five in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy. Earnhardt Jr., who led Duel 2 to green to start the 60-lap event, led a race-high 53 laps around the superspeedway but finished sixth. "I don't know what I could have done differently to defend that," Earnhardt said after the race. "Once I heard the No. 3 (Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they was going to have a big run. Denny (Hamlin) is so smart and he knows what he's doing out there. He's one of the better plate racers out there. Any which way I would have went, he was going to go the other way and probably get by me. I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy; but I don't know if I would have done it any different than he did, either. Congratulations to Denny." The Can-Am Duel 2 race set the outside row for Sunday's Daytona 500 , with Earnhardt Jr. retaining his outside pole position from Sunday's qualifying session. Duel 2 winner Hamlin will start fourth, runner up Clint Bowyer will roll off the grid sixth, etc. Just as Duel 1, the top-10 finishers received championship points: Race winner Hamlin earned 10 points, second-place Bowyer received nine, continuing down through 10th-place. Fourth-place finisher Allmendinger did not receive any points as he failed post-race inspection. Ryan Blaney (20th) was contending for the lead with 15 laps to go and running in the top three when his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was clipped by Jimmie Johnson (13th), who got loose from David Ragan 's (11th) No. 38 ride. Ragan and Blaney also had some contact. Blaney took a trip down pit road under green for repairs. One lap later, Johnson scraped the wall, triggered the caution and brought the No. 48 Chevrolet down pit road for five-minute repairs, per NASCAR's new damage rule. DJ Kennington was the highest-running Open car in 15th-place and thus earned a spot in Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Elliott Sadler received a spot due to speed in Sunday's qualifying session. Timmy Hill did not make the field. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Earnhardt Jr. contemplates going out on top
During Daytona 500 Media Day Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he would consider going out on top if he were to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title in 2017.
Earnhardt Jr. qualifying success a family tradition
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualifies well at restrictor-plate tracks in part because of secrets passed down from his father, Dale Earnhardt . He recounts his first on-track lesson on his weekly podcast.
Earnhardt on Squier comparisons: 'That's a hell of a compliment'
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to Jonathan Merryman about fans making the comparison between his race call in the 'The Clash' and the calls of legendary broadcaster Ken Squier.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 history
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! See how Dale Earnhardt Jr . has fared in the Daytona 500 here .
Dale Jr. emerges from concussion rehab stronger, centered and ready to win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Dale Jr.'s complete Daytona 500 history NEW YORK CITY -- A production assistant pins a lavalier microphone to the lapel of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s suit jacket in a newsroom studio inside FOX News on Sixth Avenue. "One, two, three, four, five. Hello, hello," the 14-time NMPA Most Popular Driver says instinctively, without instruction from the PA. You can tell this -- the sound test, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and then some) interviews, the traipsing around the "Big Apple" to promote the 2017 Daytona 500 , everything -- feels normal to him, like second-nature. Not long ago, there was no such thing as normal for Earnhardt . The Hendrick Motorsports driver will make his return to points-paying competition in Sunday's "Great American Race" (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after missing the second half of last season following concussion-like symptoms from wrecks at Michigan International Speedway in June and at Daytona International Speedway in July. The road back was a lengthy, arduous, winding trail filled with uncertainty and confusion. "You'd be doing something during the day and something would happen and you'd go 'Whoa, what was that? That was weird,' " Earnhardt told NASCAR.com, who tagged along with him for the day. "Just these little moments when you might get dizzy or you might forget about something that you think you shouldn't forget about. That used to happen all the time." Dale Earnhardt Jr . gets mic'd up. Earnhardt was cleared to race in December after months of rehabilitation and doctor appointments. He says he's fully healthy and recovered from his concussion, but don't hold your breath on him throwing out that cliché preseason line about being in the best shape of his life. RELATED: Watch Dale Jr.'s full interview from Daytona Media Day "I think I was probably at my peak physical condition at … 1? But since then it's all been downhill," Earnhardt joked. "I feel healthy. Mentally, I'm always sort of self-analyzing so I'm not having these things that would bring (the concussion) to my attention anymore. "The further you get removed from that stuff, the less you even remember it happening, or the less you think about it. When you go a day or a week never even thinking about the injury or the past, you're free from it. I feel great. Like I said, the doctors have given me a lot of confidence, just talking to them. They're like, 'Man, you're good. We feel good about this. We feel good about you racing. We feel good about you crashing.' You've got to have those." To get a sign-off from his doctors on crashing -- a near-certainty to happen over the course of a 36-race season -- is massive. The risk of another concussion will always be in the back of Earnhardt's mind after this most recent one kept him sidelined for so long. But he can't let that apprehension occupy him behind the wheel. "The wrecks and stuff are inevitable and I do worry. There's been crashes that I haven't had issues with, but there's been a few wrecks that I have had issues," Earnhardt said. "I don’t know … my doctors told me basically that I was healthy and if they thought I shouldn't race, they would let me know. They said, 'Look, we feel good about you racing. We feel like anything that happens … it's a dangerous sport and you're going to be at risk no more than you were before. Anything that happens to you, we can fix.' " Dale Earnhardt Jr . signs autographs for fans on the streets of New York. Talking to Earnhardt , it's clear 2016 was a year that challenged on many levels. It was also a year of tremendous growth and reflection that culminated -- quite literally -- with a marriage to longtime girlfriend Amy Earnhardt (née Reimann) on New Year's Eve, a topic that took center stage throughout his media tour at the "TODAY Show," FOX News, "The Dan Patrick Show," Inc. Magazine and "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." RELATED: Dale Jr., Amy Reimann get married on New Year's Eve Even if she did miss a question or two on the unofficially official " Dale Earnhardt Jr ." quiz on The Dan Patrick Show ( watch it here ), Earnhardt touts Amy's support and gives her nearly all the credit for his transformation. "I think I feel like a stronger, more complete person thanks to her. I hope that this isn't just a mood, that it's more permanent. I think we'll find out as we just get into the grit of the season, week-to-week and going from track to track and being tugged in all kinds of different directions by my responsibilities. Hopefully this sticks." With health in hand and a family life starting to come together at 42 years old, nobody would have blamed the 26-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for walking away before the start of his 18th full-time season. RELATED: Dale Jr. regals listeners with family storytime Dale Earnhardt Jr . with Andy Cohen of 'Watch What Happens Live' But the big news of the past week was Earnhardt's looming contract extension, with his current deal set to expire at year's end and a talented replacement champing at the bit for a full-time opportunity in Alex Bowman . RELATED: Dale Jr. discusses contract status Earnhardt won't walk away "until the gas tank is on empty," but he can't quite pinpoint when that'll be. He says any extension would be "no less than two, no more than three" years, but has put off negotiations with team owner Rick Hendrick until he knows he can commit, health-wise, long term. "I don't know (how much gas is left in the tank.) If I told you, 'Man, I've got three years,' I don’t know if I'd be telling you the full truth," said Earnhardt , a two-time Daytona 500 winner. "I can't see, I can't feel it. I know I want to finish this year and if I finish … everybody keeps asking me about my goals for a successful season, and that's to finish every race. If I'm in every race, and not injured and not missing races, then that's a successful season. "I think that will propel me into a new extension. The only thing holding me up, really, is knowing that I can do it, health-wise. Knowing that I can be there every week. If I'm going to sign a deal to be there and work for my owner … I love this man like a father. And I don't want to tell him I can be there for three more years if I can't. I'm going to get a few months under my belt and get the confidence that we can start working on the extension and I think if we get there, I'm signing that extension with the intent of doing that contract. "Now, that might be the last one but I don't know. You just don't know these things. I mean, I know drivers -- and I won't say names -- but I know very, very successful drivers in this sport that five years ago were ready to hang it up, just fed up. And they're happier today than they've ever been." Earnhardt mentioned that he nearly walked away from the sport earlier this decade, but credited his support system for pulling him back. And he's thankful it did. "I've been down, down in the dumps," he said. "Hell, if I didn't have the right support system around me, I probably would've quit in 2010, 2011. I'm glad I didn't. We got this ship righted and got to winning some races and I've had the best time behind the wheel that I've ever had in my career for three or four years now. "So who says that if I stick around that it can't get even better? I want to see, I want to wait." RELATED: Dale Jr. on front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr. regales podcast listeners with family storytime
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Editor's note: The full Dale Jr. Download podcast can be found here . Dale Earnhardt Jr . turned his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast into family storytime where he spoke for more than 50 minutes regaling listeners with tales of his famous father and the Earnhardt family history at the Daytona 500 . Among the gems Earnhardt Jr. shared was the story of how his father, Dale Earnhardt , taught him how to be fast in qualifying. As Earnhardt Jr. tells it, when he was 16 years old, working in a dealership changing oil, his dad called and told him to come to Talladega, where he was testing. Earnhardt was testing new V8 engines for the XFINITY Series, and told his son to take the wheel for a few turns around Talladega Superspeedway . Junior was astonished to be keeping time with his father during his first lap. "So then I get out there and open the wheel up and get out to the fence on the straightaway, drive it down into the corner," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm letting the wheel kind of do what it wants to do on bumps -- and I ran a second slower." As soon as he came in, his father stopped him. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked. "Well, I'm letting the car feed out off the corner against the wall," Junior responded. "Don't do that, you're adding feet to the lap," his father scolded. "I let the wheel be loose in my hands, kind of let it do its thing through the bumps," Junior continued. "Don't do that; hold it solid and steady," his father reminded. RELATED: See Dale Jr's Daytona 500 history That experience changed how Earnhardt Jr. approaches qualifying -- and what helped him to qualify second for Sunday's Daytona 500 . "What I do now when I go to qualify is I hold the wheel as hard as I can and I do not let it move when the car goes through a bump," Earnhardt Jr. said. "And I run pretty tight, which everybody does now; everybody's figured that out." Earnhardt Jr. also recounted some of his favorite moments from past Daytona 500 s. Among those he talked about: * The 2000 Daytona 500 , which was the first he saw in person -- and the first he raced in. "I felt like I had joined a fraternity," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I was on the starting grid looking around at guys like Terry Labonte and Dale Jarrett and going, 'Wow, I can't believe I'm here.' " That was also a race where his father wasn't happy that his son didn't work with him. Earnhardt finished 21st while Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th. "After the race he was very upset with me that I did not work with him," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I said, 'I don't want to work with nobody, I'm trying to get to the front.' ... He said, 'No wonder neither one of us did any good, you wouldn't work with anybody.' I said, 'You're not my responsibility, Dad.' He always took it out on me. When we raced together, if he had a bad day, in some way, it was my fault." * The 1998 Daytona 500 , which was his father's only victory in the race, despite 34 triumphs at the track. Earnhardt Jr. missed the race because he was recovering from a concussion. * The 1990 Daytona 500 , when Earnhardt blew a tire on Turn 3 of the final lap, and ended up finishing fifth. "What a badass," Junior said of his father. "Drove a damn car into Turn 3 with no right rear tire at 190 mph and didn't even hit the wall." * The 1979 Daytona 500 , which was his father's rookie season. Earnhardt finished eighth. "It's so funny how they talked about him then (compared to) how we know him and remember him now," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He wasn't the Intimidator. He was a young guy racing with the veterans." Earnhardt Jr. also had one more comment about his family's history at the Daytona 500 : "We got a lot of great history in Daytona. Hoping we can go down here and have some success and add to those wins. I'd love to go down there and pass Tony Stewart and be second (for most all-time wins at Daytona International Speedway )." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;