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Dale Earnhardt Jr. moving closer to being ready to discuss contract extension with Hendrick

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 - Practice

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 24: Dale Earnhardt Jr, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 24, 2017 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he is “getting closer and closer” to talks with Hendrick Motorsports about a contract extension after saying last month he wanted to gain confidence in his health before he looked beyond this year.

Earnhardt’s contract expires after this season. He told reporters last month at Daytona International Speedway that he wanted to wait to “get some races under my belt and get confidence in my health before I can commit’’ to more years with the team.

“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t deliver on,’’ Earnhardt said at the time.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson on where things stands with his contract extension

Earnhardt, the 14-time most popular driver, was asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway where he stood with his future in the sport.

“It’s only been a few races, but I feel really good and we have had some discussions about planning to get together,’’ Earnhardt said of talks with car owner Rick Hendrick. “It’s not something I’ve put on the shelf for sure. We’re getting closer and closer.

“I feel good and have made some good adjustments in my car in the offseason. I had some meetings with NASCAR safety about things that I can do better for myself and make my car safer. I’m mad that I didn’t think about doing that sooner, but it takes something to make you proactive. I’ve done some things that I think have really given me a lot of confidence in the car and in my ability to continue to race.

“I’m not in any hurry to sit down and have those discussions, but we have been chit-chatting a little about when we need to go ahead and start heading in that direction.’’

The 42-year-old Earnhardt is in his 10th season at Hendrick Motorsports. He missed the final 18 races of last season because of concussion symptoms. He also missed two races in 2012 because of concussion symptoms. He enters Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway 23rd in the points.

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