Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Richard Petty is ‘just looking out for me’

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A week after Richard Petty said he was a “little disappointed” Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t retire after his season-ending concussion last year, Earnhardt says he’s “not disappointed” in the racing legend’s comments.

“I think’s he’s just looking out for me, which I appreciate,” Earnhardt said on the latest episode of the Dale Jr Download.

Last week, the seven-time champion appeared on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub” and shared his thoughts on Earnhardt’s return to racing. Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of last season and it was the second time he’s sat out due to concussions.

“He’s lived half his life and he don’t need to be messed up going to the next [half],” Petty said.

MORE: Back in the saddle: Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to this season and beyond

In his podcast, Earnhardt shared how his relationship with Petty has changed since he was forced to sit out races beginning in July.

“For the longest time whenever I’d see Richard, I’d go up to him and shake his hand out of respect for him and everything he’s done for this sport and he was always very nice,” Earnhardt said. “Every time I see him now he comes up and grabs me by the arm and kind of gives this big bear hug, he puts his arm around you and asks how are you doin’ and asks if you’re taking care of yourself.

“And he’s way more engaged. I wouldn’t have instigated that because he’s a legend. He’s super engaged with me now. He’s always concerned about my well-being. I think his comment is basically saying ‘I’m worried about Dale Jr. This is me caring about Dale Jr. as a person.’ Nothing more.”

Earnhardt was cleared to return to racing in December after a test at Darlington Raceway. His first on-track activity with other cars since July came two weeks ago in a test at Phoenix Raceway. Alex Bowman, who substituted for Earnhardt with Jeff Gordon last year, will drive the No. 88 in this weekend’s Advanced Auto Parts Clash.

In his podcast Earnhardt said Bowman’s name will be on the No. 88 instead of his. When Bowman and Gordon drove it last year, Earnhardt’s name stayed on the car.

MORE: Earnhardt’s peers reflect on his lost season

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