Dale Earnhardt Jr. charity event drew a crowd, and laughs

LAS VEGAS -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is glad he didn't quit racing cold turkey.

After just a week of "retirement" from full-time NASCAR Cup racing, he doesn't know what he would do without a couple of Xfinity Series races and television duties on his docket to go along with his co-ownership in JR Motorsports.

Little did he know he already was following the advice of none other than Charles Barkley.

Earnhardt was back to work Tuesday at a retirement celebration that benefitted Nationwide Children's Hospital, which contributed part of Nationwide's $888,000 check to the Dale and Amy Earnhardt Fund for pediatric injury rehabilitation at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"It's felt weird, to be honest with you, to be finished with the season and knowing that you're not going to go back and start another one," Earnhardt said prior to the event at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. "It is a weird feeling. Being away from the sport is so weird. Just being home for Thanksgiving [without contact with the team] is just a very odd feeling and not a comfortable feeling at all."

Earnhardt finished an 18-year NASCAR Cup career Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He had announced in April that 2017 would be his last full-time season.

"I'm going to always want to be at the track and I'm always going to be around the sport and involved in the competition somehow, someway," said Earnhardt, whose JR Motorpsorts won the Xfinity Series title in 2016 with William Byron.

"If I ever thought I was going to just quit cold turkey, I was kidding myself. Just being away for a couple of days is difficult."

Having spent Thanksgiving in North Carolina, having dinner at his mom's (he typically would spend it in Key West), Earnhardt went hunting on his Ohio property for a couple of days before heading west to Las Vegas.

"No regrets," Earnhardt said. "No second thoughts. It's just certainly going to take some getting used to."

Even though it had just been a little more than a week, Earnhardt wanted to see people from the industry.

"I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces," Earnhardt said. "It's kind of nice. It's going to be a long winter being away from the sport."

During the event Tuesday, several of Earnhardt's friends shared stories. It was capped by Barkley, who told Earnhardt that retired athletes need to find something to do. And television is a good choice.

"People are going to be beating on your door to pay you to watch NASCAR," quipped Barkley, the outspoken NBA star who now works for TNT. "They're going to be paying you a lot of money, too. ... Make it a bidding war for your services."

One thing Earnhardt won't do: be a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars," which obviously would love to have him.

"That's never going to happen," Earnhardt said. "I promise there is nothing in this world that would get me out there on the dance floor. ... I'd be willing to do a lot of things. That's not one of them."

Even not for a donation to his new fund for the hospital?

"I would match it just to stay off the dance floor," Earnhardt said.