Skip to content

Hard to believe: Dale Earnhardt Jr. turns 40 this year — wants to send Steve Letarte out as a winner

Jan 29, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT

Coke Zero 400 - Practice Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For many, the image of Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been frozen in time since the late 1990s or perhaps his first full season on the Sprint Cup circuit in 2000: that of a young red-haired, cherub-faced kid just excited about life and living the dream of being a NASCAR driver.

But Earnhardt revealed some rather sober and potentially earth-shattering news Tuesday that potentially may shock many members of his legendary Junior Nation of fans:

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver the last 11 years running is going to turn 40 this year!

October 10, to be precise.

“I think I turned 40 before I was supposed to,” Earnhardt laughed during the second day of the four-day NASCAR Media Tour. “I don’t feel 40, I don’t even feel close to 40. It’s weird for me to say that and I think about it all the time that I’m going to be 40 years old this year, because I don’t feel anything near 40.

“I don’t think I think like a 40 year old man, I still have a lot of immaturity in me and like to have fun and goof off. And I feel in my racing and work ethic and the way I approach what I’m doing and how long I’ve been here, I don’t feel 40.

“I don’t feel burned out, don’t feel worn out, don’t feel like this is old hat, don’t feel bored. I feel like I’m just as excited about Daytona as I’ve ever been each year that I’ve went there. I guess when it gets boring or it’s not as exciting, I’ll start to freak out. Yeah, I don’t feel 40, that’s weird. But maybe that means I’ll last a little bit younger than most guys.”

And if Junior has his way once he hits 40, he plans on racing for another decade, something his loyal fans will likely be happy to hear.

That means there’s still plenty of chances for that elusive first Sprint Cup championship – if not 10 titles in a row potentially (hey, you can’t blame him for being optimistic, right?).

“Ten’s a lot of years and that would be enough,” Earnhardt said. “I think if I retired at 50, I’d be real thrilled that I made it that long.”

While Earnhardt stressed that his main goal in 2014 is to win races – he hasn’t won a Cup race since 2012 and only two since 2006 – winning a championship would be a fitting sendoff and homage to Letarte, who will become a TV analyst for NBC Sports in 2015.

It’s important to send Letarte out on top, Earnhardt said.

“It’s important to me, but hell, it’s part of his responsibility, too,” Earnhardt said with a laugh.

But then, Earnhardt turned more serious on his feeling about Letarte.

“I’m going into the last season with Steve, who I love to work with, and I really want to enjoy that moment, that is, the whole season,” Earnhardt said. “Me and Steve are so close and this is going to be a lot of fun to work with him one more season. I want to make sure it’s one we enjoy and he can be happy when he’s finished and then we can move on and continue to compete.”

And that final farewell season to one of the best crew chiefs he’s had in his career starts in a few weeks, Earnhardt said.

“When we run Daytona, we’re going to run it for the last time, his last Daytona 500 as a crew chief,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to be working every single lap to try to do the best we can for each other. And I think that’s good, it can elevate our performance and our team.

“I think the team could feed off that and we may be able to accomplish the things we set out to accomplish in this last season together.”

How has Earnhardt changed from a 23-year-old Busch Series driver in 1998 to a 40-year-old, 15-year Cup veteran in 2014? Hardly at all, Earnhardt said.

“I don’t think my personality is anything special or unique in any way, but I think I’m a good guy that tries to make good decisions and tries to treat people right.,” he said. “All the things, the success, star power, celebrity has been just short of a fluke, like an oddity that could have happened to anybody.

“The work ethic is however you want to be at your job, and if you enjoy what you do and want to be successful at it, you’ll work hard to try and do that. I know myself, I’ve learned a lot about work ethic over the last 20 years.

“You get into racing thinking you’re working your guts out, and then you learn there/s another step, and then you learn that there’s another step and you just keep finding more in yourself over a long period of time and look back at all those things you wish you’d known when you were a kid. It could have made things easier.”

Latest Posts
  1. Massa expecting strong second half of 2014 for Williams

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Felipe Massa AP

    Brazilian driver confident that tracks such as Spa, Monza and the Circuit of the Americas will suit the FW36 car.

  2. IMSA: DeltaWing revitalizes, improves its Braselton race shop

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    Photo: DeltaWing Racing Cars Photo: DeltaWing Racing Cars

    The DeltaWing team makes new shop upgrades as it plans for the future.

  3. Sutil: F1 more difficult with testing restrictions

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Sauber driver believes the sport would benefit from more running outside of a grand prix weekend.

  4. Conway confirmed for Toyota FIA WEC debut at Austin

    Aug 1, 2014, 8:15 AM EDT

    ConwayTOR2 Getty Images

    Mike Conway will make long-awaited Toyota debut in FIA WEC at Austin next race.

  5. NASCAR: Ryan Ellis pokes fun at Jake Crum incident; decal later removed

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

    CrumEllis AP

    Inside joke goes a bit too far for NASCAR ahead of truck race in Pocono this weekend.

  6. Mallya up for a fight in the constructors’ championship

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Race Getty Images

    Force India owner confident of battling with Williams, Ferrari and McLaren until the end of the season.

  7. PWC: Acura TLX-GT set for debut at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Photo: RealTime Racing Photo: RealTime Racing

    The Acura TLX-GT will make its debut at Mid-Ohio, later than planned but still on Honda’s home weekend.

  8. NASCAR AMERICA: Thursday round-up (VIDEO)

    Jul 31, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT

    Toyota Owners 400 - Practice Getty Images

    More analysis on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s new crew chief, Greg Ives, took center stage on Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN.

  9. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

    Jul 31, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    140731-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA lineup…

  10. Formula E: Malaysia date moves from October to November

    Jul 31, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Previews Getty Images

    Malaysian FIA Formula E round moves from October to November to accommodate prime minister’s wishes.

  11. IndyCar: A crucial weekend to commence at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Honda Indy 200 At Mid-Ohio - Day 3 Getty Images

    Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud look to make headway on Team Penske teammates, while Chip Ganassi Racing seeks a six-pack of Mid-Ohio wins this weekend.

  12. Hysterical video: How the British envision NASCAR

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    nascar brits

    Anthony Richardson bills himself as the Bad British Commentator, and it definitely shows through here with his malapropisms and complete lack of understanding of the sport and world of NASCAR.

  13. What might the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule look like?

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images Getty Images

    There may not be wholesale changes, based upon what NASCAR chairman Brian France said recently, but next year’s Sprint Cup schedule will look different. Based upon various sources and things we’ve heard and/or read, we’re going to chime in with our ideas and why we think that way.

  14. As many as 4 more drivers can clinch Chase spot at Pocono

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Chase for the sprint cup logo

    With six qualifying races left, a total of 10 more spots remain to be clinched to fill out the expanded 16-driver playoff field for this year’s 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

  15. Mark Martin returning to Roush Fenway Racing in unique role

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

    (Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Legendary NASCAR driver Mark Martin is returning to Roush Fenway Racing. But don’t expect Martin, 55, to get back behind the wheel any time soon.

  16. Police seek large stolen Earnhardt memorabilia collection

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    (Illustration: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images) Getty Images

    If you collect NASCAR memorabilia and someone approaches you in the coming days with a deal that seems too good to be true – especially if it involves merchandise related to either Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. – it probably is.

  17. Report: Ferrari’s Engine and Electrics boss Luca Marmorini leaves team

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Ferrari’s head of Engine and Electrics, Luca Marmorini, has left the team ahead of the second half of the season.

  18. Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio highlights extensive motorsports coverage this weekend on NBCSN, NBC

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    NBCSN

    NBCSN will present live coverage of the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, highlighting more than 30 hours of motorsports coverage across NBC and NBCSN this weekend.

  19. Report: Toyota closing in on new 2015 Camry for Sprint Cup

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    (AP Photo/Tom Strattman) AP

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the case for the new design of the Toyota Camry for the 2015 Sprint Cup season.

  20. IndyCar: Carpenter hopeful for second car in 2015

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:57 AM EDT

    Ed Carpenter AP

    Ed Carpenter says he’d like to expand to two cars, but it remains to be seen if this can actually come to fruition.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Ives, Earnhardt Jr. a good combo?

Featured video

Inside the Hungarian GP
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches