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Dale Earnhardt Jr. on surviving plane crash: ‘Thankful and ready to live our lives’

Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with the media at Darlington about how his family has been handling the aftermath of a plane crash they were in.

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was blessed and thankful that he and his family survived a recent plane crash and that they are “ready to live our lives.”

Earnhardt was making his first public appearance since he, wife Amy, daughter Isla and both pilots survived a plane crash Aug. 15 at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport.

“It was a very scary experience, and we’re just happy to be healthy and have a weekend like this to look forward to,” said Earnhardt, who will compete in Saturday’s Xfinity race for JR Motorsports and be a part of the NBCSN broadcast team for Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

MORE: Dale Jr. excited to race at Darlington and honor his father
Earnhardt declined to talk about the final moments in the plane and escaping it as it burned. He also noted the ongoing investigation into the incident.

“It was a very tough experience to go though,” Earnhardt said. “I try not to get into that. Things happen for a reason. You just try to learn from it and move on.

“I love my daughter so much and enjoy being around her and look forward to watching her grow up and experiencing a lot of things with her going forward. That just made you realize it that much more. I’m just thankful and ready to live our lives.”

Earnhardt also described the impact the incident has had since.

“A lot of things in your life that you go through help you sort of order your priorities, remind you, sometimes I guess of what’s important and what’s not so important,” he said. “You don’t want to go through situations like that but there are certainly some positives that come out of. Remembering what matters, like your family and friends.”

Earnhardt’s focus is on racing this weekend. He’ll make his lone start of the season in the Xfinity Series in Saturday’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBC). He said that should sponsor Hellmann’s extend its option for next season, he’d like to run the March 21 Xfinity race at Miami.

As for this weekend, Earnhardt said his back, which was injured in the plane crash, is feeling better and he said there will be no need for a relief driver for Saturday’s race.