HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on NASCAR’s championship weekend (all times local):
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he’s at peace with his decision to retire.
Earnhardt is calling it a career after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt says he’s been touched by the well-wishes and video tributes in his honor. The 14-time winner of NASCAR’s most popular driver award says he’s healthy and hopes to finish the race on his terms.
“It would be a bit of a heartbreaker if we have the kind of issue that would take us out of an event and we couldn’t finish,” he said Friday.
Earnhardt is rooting for long-time friend Martin Truex Jr. to win the Cup championship Sunday.
“I’m Team Martin this weekend, for sure,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt was also set to pose for team photos with friend Matt Kenseth, also on his way out of NASCAR. Kenseth has no ride lined up for 2018
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he would consider returning to Homestead-Miami Speedway next season to drive in the Xfinity Series finale.
Earnhardt is set to retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after of Sunday’s season finale. Earnhardt had committed to two or three races next year in NASCAR’s second-tier series.
Earnhardt won consecutive Xfinity Series championships in 1998 and 1999.
Defending Truck Series champion and 2017 title contender Johnny Sauter posted the fastest lap at 169.629 mph in the first practice of the day. Christopher Bell, also among the four championship contenders, had the best 10-lap average at 165.967 mph.
Austin Cindric was sixth and Matt Crafton 13th. Cindric, Bell, Crafton and Sauter are in the winner-take-all championship race Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Crafton is a two-time series champion, and Sauter won the title last year.
The trucks qualify in the afternoon and the championship race begins at 8 p.m.
Johnny Sauter signed a contract extension with GMS Racing the same day he was set to defend his NASCAR Truck Series championship.
The 39-year-old Sauter will race for the championship Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sauter, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric are vying for the title on the 1 ½-mile track.
Sauter says “to be able to compete at this level, where you know you could win any given weekend, is incredible and I’m excited to be able to continue with the No. 21 team next year.”
Sauter joined GMS last year, won three races and the championship.
This year, the journeyman won a career-best four races and has a shot to become the second Truck Series driver to win back-to-back titles.
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