KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. would much rather talk about the future than the past these days.

NASCAR’s most popular driver continued his farewell tour with his final trip to Kansas Speedway on Sunday, politely answering the same questions about his career and legacy that he’s face all season. But he lit up when he talked about next week, and a trip with his wife Amy to the doctor’s office.

The couple announced last week they are expecting a baby girl.

“We went for a checkup and Amy took a couple of tests, and the tests were saying she’s pregnant. We went to the doctor and I’m still thinking, ‘Man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me,'” he recalled this week. “We’re sitting in there for like, 20 minutes. And they’re talking woman language and I’m not understanding — they are just talking about things and I’m like, ‘Well, when is she going to say it? I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice.’

“It took them a while. I was scared to speak up,” Earnhardt continued, smiling. “Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, ‘Awesome.'”

That was only the beginning of the awesomeness.

“Then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great,” he said. “We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born.”

The couple, who married in December, has not announced a due date, but Earnhardt should have plenty of time to play the doting dad. He’s down to just four races in his final full-time season in NASCAR, and plans to join the NBC Sports broadcast team for next season.

In the meantime, everywhere Earnhardt has gone on has celebrated his career.

Every track has given him some sort of retirement gift, usually something that is supposed to create an impact on the local community. But some have added a unique twist, such as Talladega, which last week presented him with the Chevrolet his father raced during his 1979 rookie season.

Kansas Speedway had Royals manager Ned Yost, who was close friends with Earnhardt’s father, record a special video message for him. The track also presented him with a special No. 3 jersey.

But track officials were also quick to adapt their plans when Earnhardt posted his big news on social media this week. Their socially conscious gift was an $8,800 contribution made in his name to the University of Kansas Health Systems Pediatric Unit, while a more personal gift was a copy of the well-known book, “What to Expect When You Are Expecting.”

“Somebody says your wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit. But man, when you hear that heartbeat it’s like, ‘Yep, it’s real,'” Earnhardt said. “This is a real thing in there and it’s here. This is happening. So, just all this emotion just pops out. We have a little photo stream called the ‘blueberry,’ because initially it was the size of a blueberry.”

Now, the obvious question is whether Earnhardt’s daughter will join the family business, perhaps following in not only his footsteps but those of female NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.

It’s a question Earnhardt hasn’t even considered.

“I’m just praying for health,” he said. “Just be healthy and have all your little fingers and toes. Once you get beyond that point, I think you start thinking and daydreaming a little bit, but we’ll get to that point after we have a healthy baby in our arms.”

Earnhardt and his wife learned they were pregnant in early August, but they managed to keep a lid on the news. That was no small feat in a world where news of every stripe is leaked every minute.

Now that he’s able to share the news, he sounds like just about every other first-time dad.

“All the people in the garage, I mean, I just couldn’t wait to tell everybody,” he said. “I’m just trying to soak in all the experiences of going to the doctor and listening to the heartbeat and all those little things that you do. They are incredible.”


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DAVE SKRETTA
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