Dale Earnhardt Jr. remembers his father’s amazing legacy AP Photo/Amy Conn, File
FILE - This Feb. 21, 2001, file photo shows Dale Earnhardt, left, and his son Dale Earnhardt, Jr., watching from the pit area at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Roush Fenway Racing's seamless reaction in the wake of team owner Jack Roush's recent plane crash highlighted a relatively new concern for NASCAR teams: having a succession plan in place just in case the unthinkable happens to a team's leader. Roush and Hendrick Motorsports have shown that they can stay strong in the face of catastrophe, but the gradual downfall of Dale Earnhardt Inc. provides a cautionary tale. (AP Photo/Amy Conn, File)

So many milestones are taking place right now in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s life.

After a wildly successful career in NASCAR, No. 88 is officially retiring from the sport and getting ready to welcome his first child with his wife, Amy.

And though these moments will bring so much happiness, they’ll also be a little bittersweet because one very special person won’t be there to celebrate: his late father, the great Dale Earnhardt.

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The world lost Dale Sr. in a tragic racing accident at Daytona International Speedway back in 2001, and Junior still feels that loss every day.

He sat down with Willie Geist on the “Today” show over the weekend to talk about his late father’s lasting legacy.

“I hated that I lost him, and I hate that he can’t be around to know my wife, and she wants to know him so badly,” Junior told the reporter.

“What kids we have—they’ll never get to meet him and experience what he was like because he was this really special person.”

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It is heartbreaking to think Dale Jr. and Amy’s firstborn will never get to know her grandfather, but he will live on in stories and memories.

“He was everybody’s hero, and it didn’t take him long when he would meet a new person that he would have that impact on him,” Dale Jr. said. “People loved him. When he would walk into a room, it changed.”

Dale Jr.’s final race will take place Nov. 19 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Samantha Stephens absolutely lives for music. When she's not making it, she's talking or writing about it. She's worked in all arenas of the country music world for nearly a decade, from syndicated radio and television to print journalism. She's even been known to crash a red carpet or two, true story.
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