It’s the end of an era.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. handed his racing helmet over to team owner Rick Hendrick following his final lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20, and thus ended his career behind the wheel.

Although Junior is part of a racing legacy with his dad, NASCAR Hall of Famer and Winston Cup multi-champion Dale Earnhardt, he says that the plan was never to be his dad’s mini-me.

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In an interview with “Good Morning America’s” Michael Strahan, Dale says, “I know that when I started my career as an Earnhardt, my dad was a seven-time champion. He had this whole mystique, and fans wanted that. They wanted 20 more years of Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator, and I couldn’t be that. That’s not who I was. I didn’t want to be that. I didn’t want to emulate him and try to fit in that mold. So, I just went ahead right from the start and just was myself, maybe even more outspoken than I was comfortable with so people could get to know me.”

Fans did get to know Junior. The ginger-haired driver was voted the most popular driver in NASCAR a whopping 14 times.

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And while his dad may have helped mold him as a driver, it may be wife Amy’s influence that made him so popular among fans.

“Amy has changed me as a person, made every day of my life better,” he says. “I became a better person, a better husband, a better friend. I have no idea how this little girl is going to change my life,” he says of the baby daughter he and Amy are expecting next year. “I’m getting all kinds of advice from everybody, but that is going to be an experience that I couldn’t imagine how to describe it today.”

We’re looking forward to listening to Junior as a race commentator next season, but we really can’t wait to meet that baby girl in the spring!

Based in Nashville, Tammy is a 20-year veteran of the country music community. She has worked in marketing, PR and artist development. Follow her @TammyGooGoo and join the conversation @RareCountry
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