married Earnhardt eager to start 2017 season
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[January 27, 2017]
By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
is in his happy place.
On New Year's Eve, NASCAR's most popular driver married long-time
girlfriend Amy Reimann. The couple honeymooned on Maui and Kaua'i.
But neither of those Hawaiian Islands tugs on Earnhardt's psyche the
way Daytona Beach does, and at long last, in mid-February, he'll be
back on track at the Birthplace of Speed, racing a Monster Energy
NASCAR Cup Series car for the first time since July 9 at Kentucky
Earnhardt is fully recovered from the concussion that caused him to
miss the last half of the 2016 season. In December, he received
medical clearance to race. Just as important, he is fully committed
to the competition on the track.
"To get approved to race is one thing, but to decide to race is
another," Earnhardt said on Wednesday morning during the NASCAR
Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "Mentally, you
have to make the decision if you want to keep racing. And if you
want to keep racing, you have to go into it 100 percent.
"This is the top, elite series of motorsports in North America and
if you're going to be out there you can't do it without 100 percent.
I had to answer a lot of personal questions myself and just really
buy in. All that was a big process and I'm really happy with what
I've decided to do."
Earnhardt's rehabilitation was a lengthy process with a prescribed
regimen that led to success. His courtship with Reimann likewise was
protracted, and in retrospect, Earnhardt wishes he hadn't waited
until age 41 to get married.
"Getting married has been incredible," Earnhardt said. "I wish I
would have figured this all out sooner. I'm frustrated with myself
that I took so long to grow up, because I have an amazing wife, and
she's changed my life. She's really helped me as a person to become
better on all fronts -- personally, and all my friendships with
people and how I react to people and treat people.
"And, obviously, in my professional life she's helped me as a
driver. It's been great. Just hoping to enjoy what's left of my
career, and hopefully I get to make the decisions on that myself as
far as how much further I'll race. Going to start a family, too, so
have a lot of good things to look forward to. Really excited about
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The immediate future is of some concern, at least where racing is
concerned. Earnhardt is optimistic, but he won't know how he stacks
up against the competition until he climbs into his No. 88 Hendrick
Motorsports Chevrolet for the first time.
"Being out of the car, you hope you can jump back in the car and not
miss a beat, but like I said, this is the top series, and any time
you're away, you're getting behind," Earnhardt said. "I'm really
anxious and curious where we shake out early in the season, how
competitive we can be, what -- if any -- learning curve there is for
"We'll figure all that out. I missed the camaraderie. I have an
awesome road crew. We're all buddies. We all communicate every day.
We use an app to be able to communicate and text each other as a
group, so it's a close-knit sort of family. ... It's fun to be able
to go as a team and succeed. Even when you don't succeed, those are
the guys you lean on. You sort of lift each other up."
One of the hardest things Earnhardt had to do when he was out of the
car was watch Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman drive in his stead -- and
work with his crew.
"Certainly jealous of Jeff and Alex working with my guys," Earnhardt
said. "At the same time, I was happy for Alex and glad Jeff was
available. You definitely were wishing it was you in there getting
Come February, Earnhardt can stop wishing and start racing, as he
seeks his third Daytona 500 victory.
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