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Dale Earnhardt Jr. wonders if he 'walked away too soon' from racing: 'I have some unfinished business'

Retired NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. says, when it comes to racing, there's still some gas left in the tank. “I’m 46 years old and there are a lot of guys that are still racing at this age and still competitive."
/ Source: TODAY

Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. revved up at the thought of coming out of retirement?

The NASCAR legend retired from full-time racing in 2017 after racking up more than two dozen victories, including a pair of Daytona 500 wins in 2004 and 2014. Despite the fact he’s called it quits, there’s a part of him that questions if he made the right call.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates his second Daytona 500 win on Feb. 23, 2014.NASCAR Illustrated / Sporting News via Getty Images

“I’m 46 years old and there are a lot of guys that are still racing at this age and still competitive, and I still feel like I have some unfinished business,” he told the 3rd hour of TODAY on Tuesday.

“There's that little bit in you that always wonders if you walked away too soon or if you retired from driving full-time too soon.”

The father of two has carved out a nice second career for himself, working as an analyst for NBC’s NASCAR coverage. He also hosts Peacock’s “Lost Speedways,” in which he visits abandoned racetracks. The show returns for a second season beginning Thursday.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. basks in the glory of his first Daytona 500 win on Feb. 15, 2004.ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group

Earnhardt says walking away from the sport when he did — even if he had some left in the tank — has helped him as a broadcaster.

“I’ll probably always wonder about that, but I use that excitement for driving, I use the fact that I miss it, I use that in the broadcast, you know? I want to be out there,” he said.

“I think that energy is good for the broadcast. When I see something happening on the track, I get excited about it. I want to be in that battle. I’m thinking about what that driver is dealing with and how much fun he’s having. I think that helps my work in the booth as an analyst, so I’m pretty much 99 percent sure that I’ll never go back to full-time driving.”

Al Roker was excited at the prospect that there was a sliver of hope Earnhardt would get behind the wheel again.

But Earnhardt said that longing to be on the track again will always be with him.

“I hang on to that desire to do it. I hang on to it because I think it helps me in the booth,” he said.

“I don’t ever want to be in a position in my life where I don’t want to be driving a race car. Even if I’m not driving a car full time, I’ll always want that passion for it to be part of me.”

Peacock is part of NBC News' parent company, NBCUniversal.