Dale Earnhardt Jr.: ‘I don’t know how the hell I retire, so I’m going to have to do this a lot longer’

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CHICAGO – Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t get scared by much on or off the racetrack, but he’s dreading next month – and it has nothing to do with the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Hard as it may seem for some of his fans to believe, Earnhardt turns the big 4-0 on October 10. And as he approaches that milestone, Earnhardt admits he’s thinking about it more and more.

“Real nervous,” Earnhardt said during Thursday’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Media Day in downtown Chicago. “I don’t know what to think about that. I don’t want to grow up.

“You don’t have much of a choice sometimes with your age when you hit these milestones, but I feel physically and mentally 10 years younger than that. I guess that’s a good thing.”

Earnhardt realizes that he’s seen a lot in his 15-year Sprint Cup career and knows things will eventually start going downhill.

But for now?

“I’m still enjoying what I do,” he said. “I’ve had the best time driving race cars this year. Which surprised me, because I hadn’t been having a good time several years ago and I didn’t know if that was ever going to change.

“I feel really fortunate, to be honest with you. I feel lucky to still be enjoying what I do, the passion. It’s a big deal with this championship Chase and I really hope we can make our fans proud, make all our supporters proud of the job we do.

“I feel there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of people are relying upon us and depending on us. We want to be able to deliver.”

But can he deliver and finally give his long-suffering fans – and himself – that long dreamed about first Sprint Cup championship?

“I do,” he said unequivocally. “I think this is our best shot in the last six, seven years.

“You always see that when the Chase happens, there’s a team that just sort of comes out of nowhere or really ramps up the performance. We don’t have to ramp it up too far, we’ve been doing pretty good. Hopefully, we haven’t shown our best yet and haven’t delivered the goods just yet.”

With that said, Earnhardt admits he’s trying to put thoughts of retirement out of his mind and as far down the road as possible.

“How do I retire? I don’t know how the hell I retire, so I’m going to have to do this a lot longer,” he said matter-of-factly but also with a smile on his face. “I’m fine with that. I’m having fun. I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had.

“When I was younger, I was so naïve about it and just didn’t realize how fortunate I was, how lucky I was to be in the position I was in. I thought I did, but I think I take it more seriously now and really appreciate the situation I’m in.

“That appreciation and passion is still there, and as long as that stuff is still there, you do the details, the extra little things that really matter in the whole picture as a driver.

“When you lose that passion, that drive, you stop doing those little things because you don’t think they’re that important or they don’t quite matter. That’s when you see the performance drop and everything follows suit behind that.

“I think the fact I’m still there, still having fun, hell, I can go another 10 years.”

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X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.