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Dale Earnhardt Jr. opens up about retirement, says he hopes to still 'be a part of the sport that I love'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened up his legendary 18-year career in NASCAR, saying that despite retiring from competition, he hopes to "continue to be a part of the sport that I love."

"I want to continue to cover it, be a part of its health and growth," Earnhardt, 43, who will remain in the world of NASCAR as a commentator, broadcasting races from the booth next season, said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Michael Strahan.

Moments before completing the final race of his career on Sunday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, in Homestead, Florida, Earnhardt said he felt "excited."

"Looking forward to the future," he added. "But definitely want to make this last one count ... I want to make sure I get it all out on this last race."

Earnhardt also opened up about the beginnings of his career, when he stepped out as a racer in the shadow of his late father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time NASCAR champion.

"He was this intimidator, man in black ... rough ... and tumble, blue collar," the junior Earnhardt said of his father. "He had this whole ... mystique and ... fans wanted that.

"They wanted 20 more years of ... Dale Earnhardt, the intimidator, and I couldn't be that," he added. "That's not who I was. I didn't want to be that. I didn't want to emulate him, and try to fit into that mold."

Earnhardt said that instead of trying to become his father, "I just went ahead right from the start, and just was myself."

"Maybe even more outspoken than I was comfortable with, just so people could get to know me," he added. "I think people found me relatable because of that."

Earnhardt, who has amassed 26 wins over the course of his decorated career, said that he attempted "to show people that I'm grounded and humbled and ... appreciate, you know, what good fortune I've got to be here."

In addition to discussing his retirement from racing, Earnhardt also opened up about another major life change coming up for him.

"My wife's pregnant with a little girl, we're going to have in May," Earnhardt told ABC News, adding that he is still processing all the emotions he feels.

"I can't tell what my emotions are," he said. "Cause there's so many great things happening in my life, but I'm really excited."

Earnhardt added that his wife, Amy Earnhardt, whom he wed in 2016, has "made every day in my life better"

"Amy has changed me," he said. "I became a better person, a better husband, a better friend, a better brother, a better son."

He said that he is looking forward to welcoming their first child together.

"I have no idea how this little girl's going to change my life," he said. "I'm getting all kinds of advice from everybody. But that is going to be an experience that ... I couldn't imagine ... how to describe it today."

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