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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IndyCar race weekend doubleheader schedule at IMS road course

IndyCar weekend schedule Indianapolis
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The NTT IndyCar Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third time this season but with a weekend schedule that will put the action in front of fans for the first time in 2020.

The track’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course will play host to IndyCar and sports cars series over four days. The action will begin Thursday with practice and concluding with an eight-hour race Sunday featuring the Intercontinental GT Challenge and GT World Challenge America.

The NTT IndyCar Series will hold a Friday-Saturday race doubleheader called the Harvest GP presented by GMR.

ENTRY LISTS: Who’s racing IndyCar at IMS this weekend

The name is a nod to the Harvest Classic, which was held Sept. 9, 1916 to help the track stay solvent during World War I. The event had three races of 20, 50 and 100 miles (all won by Johnny Aitken) that was the only racing held outside May at IMS from 1911-93.

A limited crowd of 10,000 will be allowed each day this weekend, and those fans will be the first to experience new video boards, concession stands, restrooms and 5G wireless connectivity.

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Harvest GP:

(All times are Eastern)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Thursday, Oct. 1

Noon — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America test session
2:25 p.m. — IndyCar practice (NBC Sports Gold)
6:20 p.m. — IndyCar qualifying for Harvest GP, Race 1 (NBC Sports Gold)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Friday, Oct. 2

10:20 a.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America practice
1:40 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America practice
3:30 p.m. — IndyCar Harvest GP, Race 1 (USA Network, NBC Sports Gold)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Saturday, Oct. 3

10:20 a.m. — IndyCar qualifying for Harvest GP, Race 2 (NBC Sports Gold)
12:10 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America qualifying
2:30 p.m. — IndyCar Harvest GP, Race 2 (NBC, NBC Sports Gold)
5:30 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America pole shootout

IndyCar weekend schedule: Sunday, Oct. 4

10 a.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America race