FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2014, file photo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race with team owner Rick Hendrick, front right, in Victory Lane at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va. Hendrick Motorsports says Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire at the end of this season. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

The Latest: Earnhardt excited about remainder of season

April 25, 2017 - 3:28 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that he will retire from racing at the end of the season (all times local):

3:25 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring at the end of the season, is encouraged about the remainder of what will be his final full season as a driver.

He says he's now excited about going to the early morning practices that he used to dread.

"I feel healthy. I'm having a really good time driving the cars and enjoying that with my team," he said. "We spoke this morning, and that was the real message, really, that we feel competitive. We feel like we can go out there and do well. We've had some odd luck, but when the luck's been there, the results have been there. ... I'm excited about the races we have left."

Earnhardt is not off to the greatest start this season, with only one top-five finish so far. He took another hit Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway when a mechanical issue caused him to crash.

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3:20 p.m.

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick is thanking the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. for everything he's done personally and professionally for him.

"You deserve everything, all the awards and accolades," Hendrick said. "There will never be another Dale Earnhardt Jr. You're the one."

Earnhardt has driven for Hendrick since 2008 after a nasty split with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his late father but run by his stepmother. He was unhappy with the direction of DEI since his father's 2001 death in a last-lap accident at the Daytona 500, and a frosty relationship with his stepmother led him to bolt to NASCAR's most powerful team.

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3:15 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 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."

Earnhardt says he wants to be part of the "future of this sport" for many, many years to come and that he would stay involved in racing at some level.

"I don't see myself really detaching," Earnhardt said.

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3:10 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he informed Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick on March 29 of his plans to retire. Earnhardt said that "without a shadow of a doubt," the toughest part of his decision was informing Hendrick.

Earnhardt has driven for Hendrick since 2008 after a nasty split with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his late father but run by his stepmother. He was unhappy with the direction of DEI since his father's 2001 death in a last-lap accident at the Daytona 500, and a frosty relationship with his stepmother led him to bolt to NASCAR's most powerful team.

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3:05 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is retiring at the end of the season because he "wanted the opportunity to go out on (his) own terms."

Earnhardt missed much of the 2016 season due to concussion-like symptoms, and he acknowledged Tuesday that the time off played a role in his decision. He wanted his retirement announcement to be his choice, rather than something that was decided for him.

"Having influence over my exit only became meaningful when it started to seem most unlikely," Earnhardt said. "As you know, I missed a few races last year and during that time I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote on the table. Of course, in life we're not promised a vote, and that's especially true in racing."

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2:15 p.m.

Fellow drivers are offering tributes to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of the season.

"I'm proud of my great friend @DaleJr for everything he's done for this sport," tweeted Tony Stewart , who retired at the end of the 2016 season. "I'm even more proud of who he is as a man. Love you friend."

Jeff Gordon issued a statement through Fox Sports, where he works as an analyst. Gordon retired after the 2015 season but filled in as the No. 88 driver last year for part of the season when concussion-like symptoms prevented Earnhardt from racing.

"Dale Jr. has had a huge impact on our sport — and you can see that every week with his legion of fans and Junior Nation," Gordon said. "He has a tremendous sense of the history of NASCAR and, while he shares his father's name, Dale has made a name for himself with his accomplishments in racing. While we will miss Dale on the track next year, he loves this sport, those working in the industry and the fans too much to ever be too far away."

Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time points champion, paid tribute to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate on Twitter , calling him "a hell of a friend and teammate."

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9:40 a.m.

Hendrick Motorsports says Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire at the end of this season.

Earnhardt is a 14-time winner of NASCAR's most popular driver award. He has 26 career Cup victories, and that includes a pair of wins in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt is a two-time champion in NASCAR's second-tier series. But the son of the late seven-time champion has never won a Cup title.

Earnhardt turns 43 in October, was married during the offseason and has stated he wants a family.

He's also been plagued by concussions and missed half of last season after suffering yet another one. He's become an advocate for research of sports-related brain injuries.

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