TALLADEGA, Ala. --? Dale Earnhardt Jr.?loves racing history, especially when it combines with honoring his famous father. So he had a big smile on his face Friday afternoon.
Earnhardt took a few laps around Talladega Superspeedway in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo that his father raced in his rookie season in 1979 and in some select races during his 1980 Cup championship season.
The track, which operates the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, gave Earnhardt the car as a retirement gift.
"It was pretty neat trying to imagine what it'd be like to be running one of them around at 180, 190 mph," Earnhardt said.
The Alabama 500 on Sunday will be Earnhardt's final race at Talladega, as he will retire from Cup racing after the season. He will go for his seventh career Cup victory at a track where his father notched 10 wins.
Earnhardt said he had never driven an old car with real history of his father, who died in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
"I love being able to sit in the car just to see the perspective of what the view is like," Earnhardt said. "It's so different than our cars today. No headrest or nothing like that. You kind of see everything. There's a lot of wind moving around. It's pretty crazy."
As far as his final race at Talladega, Earnhardt said he hasn't gotten caught up in those thoughts. He has not had a good season; he is winless and 22nd in the Cup standings.
"We've been looking at this race as a great opportunity for us to come in and get an awesome run or finish and maybe a win," Earnhardt said. "I've been focusing on the car. ... I haven't really thought beyond the usual emotions and anticipations that you have every race."
If Earnhardt isn't thinking about his last race at Talladega, he knows his fans are.
"This place has been great to me, and we've got a lot of fans that come see us run here because they see it as a great opportunity for us to run well," Earnhardt said. "I wouldn't call it pressure, but there's motivation to do well and run hard for all the folks that come to see it happen."