NASCAR & Auto Racing

Earnhardt Jr. concluding run at DEI

In addition to settling the championship and the other finishing positions in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway will, of course, be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s final race with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Unless he wins that race, Earnhardt Jr. will complete his first winless season in the Cup Series before departing for the No. 88 Chevrolets at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

"I think it's going to be fun having some new teammates," Earnhardt Jr. said on his XM Satellite radio show this week.

"The whole thing I'm looking forward to is just getting to know all the guys in the shop and working with new guys. It's always fun kind of getting to know people and you see them walking around in the garage and you don't know what they're like and then you get to work with them and turn out to be pretty cool guys."

Earnhardt Jr. said his top accomplishment at DEI was his 2004 Daytona 500 victory in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

"We put so much into trying to win that race for several years," he said.

"We felt we should be able to win that race. ...We had so many good cars going down there year after year and to win it man was just amazing. ...I can't explain the feeling you get when you win that race and what's that like."

Earnhardt Jr. said this weekend could be tough emotionally as he moves away from the only team with which he's ever driven in NASCAR's top series.

"It's been relatively easy to concentrate and focus so far this season when it was time to pull on the helmet, but it may be much tougher to do that at Homestead," he said. "I have so many close friends and people I've gone into battle with for nearly a decade, and that type of bond will stay with me forever."

It's also the end of his association with Budweiser as his primary sponsor. Budweiser will be on Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodges next year.

"We've had an amazing run," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I never thought we'd be here in 2007 with things like four consecutive most popular driver awards and having a Daytona 500 trophy with my name on it. Those are things I only dreamed about when I was living in a trailer and changing oil at my dad's dealership."

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