CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that he will retire from racing at the end of the season (all times local):

4:55 p.m.

NASCAR's chairman and CEO is praising Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s passion for the sport, saying it will "leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history."

After Earnhardt announced Tuesday that he was retiring after the season, Brian France said NASCAR's most popular driver "has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport — all the way to its roots."

The third-generation driver has been racing for more than 20 years. He says he plays to stay involved in racing at some level after he's done driving.

France says: "We're excited about the next chapter of his NASCAR career and wish him success for the remainder of 2017."

4:15 p.m.

In the last question at the news conference where he announced his retirement, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked what his late father would have said to him upon hearing his decision.

"I've always let other people tell me what they think Dad would think in a certain situation," Earnhardt said. "I never would assume that he was proud of me when he was alive. I certainly wouldn't make that mistake after he passed.

"I just never felt like I was worthy of assuming that of him. I always was open to hearing from people that know him really well, what they think he would think. I've talked to some people in the past 24 hours that know him pretty well, and they're pretty confident that he would be very proud."

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick also responded.

"I knew your daddy pretty well," Hendrick said. "I knew him real well. He would be proud of the man that you are and what you've done for so many, all the charities and all the good will that you've done. He would be — and is — very, very proud of you."

Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, who won seven titles and was known as "The Intimidator," was one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. He was killed in 2001 in a last-lap accident at the Daytona 500.

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3:50 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's retirement follows those of Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon in the past two years, creating a major void in NASCAR star power.

Yet Earnhardt says the "sky's the limit" for NASCAR, and he is "super excited" about the stock car series' future, given its promising young drivers.

"Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, just to name two of probably a dozen guys that I'm excited about," Earnhardt said. "That's all I read about on Twitter yesterday was how awesome the race was and how much fun it is to watch Larson. It's true. He's a real talent

"All those guys have great attitudes, great personalities. I know them well enough to be excited about how fans are going to know them in the future."

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3:30 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he wants to stay involved in racing in some capacity after he has finished driving.

"I do have ambition to work," Earnhardt said. "I'm not going to quit working. There's a feeling to being an asset to something. I don't have to be the guy holding the trophy, but being a part of that success, I really enjoy. I really enjoy making people happy and doing stuff as a team. I think I can replicate that in the next chapter of my life."

Earnhardt is a third-generation racer.

He has 26 career Cup victories and is a two-time champion of NASCAR's second-tier series. But the son of the late champion has never won a Cup title. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native in his 18th full-time season at the Cup level and he made his 600th career series start earlier this year.

Earnhardt partially owns JR Motorsports.

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3:25 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring at the end of the season, is encouraged about the remainder of what will be his final full season as a driver.

He says he's now excited about going to the early morning practices that he used to dread.

"I feel healthy. I'm having a really good time driving the cars and enjoying that with my team," he said. "We spoke this morning, and that was the real message, really, that we feel competitive. We feel like we can go out there and do well. We've had some odd luck, but when the luck's been there, the results have been there. ... I'm excited about the races we have left."

Earnhardt is not off to the greatest start this season, with only one top-five finish so far. He took another hit Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway when a mechanical issue caused him to crash.

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3:20 p.m.

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick is thanking the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. for everything he's done personally and professionally for him.

"You deserve everything, all the awards and accolades," Hendrick said. "There will never be another Dale Earnhardt Jr. You're the one."

Earnhardt has driven for Hendrick since 2008 after a nasty split with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his late father but run by his stepmother. He was unhappy with the direction of DEI since his father's 2001 death in a last-lap accident at the Daytona 500, and a frosty relationship with his stepmother led him to bolt to NASCAR's most powerful team.

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3:15 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is committed to participating in two Xfinity Series races in 2018 and that "even after this season, you have not seen the last of me on the racetrack."

Earnhardt says he wants to be part of the "future of this sport" for many, many years to come and that he would stay involved in racing at some level.

"I don't see myself really detaching," Earnhardt said.

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3:10 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he informed Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick on March 29 of his plans to retire. Earnhardt said that "without a shadow of a doubt," the toughest part of his decision was informing Hendrick.

Earnhardt has driven for Hendrick since 2008 after a nasty split with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his late father but run by his stepmother. He was unhappy with the direction of DEI since his father's 2001 death in a last-lap accident at the Daytona 500, and a frosty relationship with his stepmother led him to bolt to NASCAR's most powerful team.

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3:05 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is retiring at the end of the season because he "wanted the opportunity to go out on (his) own terms."

Earnhardt missed much of the 2016 season due to concussion-like symptoms, and he acknowledged Tuesday that the time off played a role in his decision. He wanted his retirement announcement to be his choice, rather than something that was decided for him.

"Having influence over my exit only became meaningful when it started to seem most unlikely," Earnhardt said. "As you know, I missed a few races last year and during that time I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote on the table. Of course, in life we're not promised a vote, and that's especially true in racing."

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2:15 p.m.

Fellow drivers are offering tributes to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of the season.

"I'm proud of my great friend @DaleJr for everything he's done for this sport," tweeted Tony Stewart , who retired at the end of the 2016 season. "I'm even more proud of who he is as a man. Love you friend."

Jeff Gordon issued a statement through Fox Sports, where he works as an analyst. Gordon retired after the 2015 season but filled in as the No. 88 driver last year for part of the season when concussion-like symptoms prevented Earnhardt from racing.

"Dale Jr. has had a huge impact on our sport — and you can see that every week with his legion of fans and Junior Nation," Gordon said. "He has a tremendous sense of the history of NASCAR and, while he shares his father's name, Dale has made a name for himself with his accomplishments in racing. While we will miss Dale on the track next year, he loves this sport, those working in the industry and the fans too much to ever be too far away."

Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time points champion, paid tribute to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate on Twitter , calling him "a hell of a friend and teammate."

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9:40 a.m.

Hendrick Motorsports says Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire at the end of this season.

Earnhardt is a 14-time winner of NASCAR's most popular driver award. He has 26 career Cup victories, and that includes a pair of wins in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt is a two-time champion in NASCAR's second-tier series. But the son of the late seven-time champion has never won a Cup title.

Earnhardt turns 43 in October, was married during the offseason and has stated he wants a family.

He's also been plagued by concussions and missed half of last season after suffering yet another one. He's become an advocate for research of sports-related brain injuries.

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