Jeff Gordon’s exit made Dale Earnhardt Jr. look in the mirror

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 12: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—As an avid football fan, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has seen many a career come and go, but as Jeff Gordon’s final season in full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing approaches, Earnhardt, 40, is thinking more about his own advancing age.

And it still seems strange to Earnhardt that he has seen careers begin and end during his lifetime.

“I think about that with football players a lot,” Earnhardt said on Thursday during Daytona media day sessions at Daytona International Speedway. “We’ve watched… I remember when Peyton Manning was a rookie. It just seems like it was 10 years ago, when it’s more than that.

“It just seems like it’s amazing to think that these guys like Peyton and Drew Brees came into the series and came into the NFL and they’re nearing the end of their careers. It’s crazy to see Joe Montana in these commercials, and he’s an aged man, and you remember when he was this young, athletic quarterback playing on your television screen.”

Gordon’s planned exit from the sport has had even more of an impact.

“It reminds you of how long you’ve been around, and it kind of makes you look at yourself in the mirror and realize how old you are,” Earnhardt said. “Makes me feel old anyways.

“It’s a crazy thing. I think it makes me reflect more about my own age than Jeff’s, because you still see Jeff as this guy that could race another 10 years, as competitive as he is, so he doesn’t appear to – you don’t look at him and go, ‘Man, he’s old. Look at Jeff, man, he’s been here so long.’ It doesn’t feel like it.”

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