After missing 18 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready to get back on track

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDBJ7) Dale Earnhardt Jr. stole the show at the 2017 NASCAR Media Tour on Wednesday as he's getting set to return to the racetrack next month in Daytona.

2016 must have felt like one dizzying ride through the spin cycle for NASCAR's most popular driver. Earnhardt missed the last 18 races of the season, following his third concussion since 2012. And stepping away provided a healthy dose of perspective.

"You get into a routine of doing the same thing over and over and over. You sort of lose sight of how fortunate you are and how fun it is and that you're supposed to be having fun. You do it for fun. You lose sight of that a little bit as you are going through that week to week grind. You can definitely lose sight of enjoying what's happening to you. Some guys are good at that and some not so good. So I was able to sit back and realize part of it that I was taking for granted," Earnhardt said.

Retirement isn't an option for the 42-year-old Earnhardt, at least not yet. But the thought of hanging up his helmet has crossed his mind.

"I really have it kind of open-ended right now for me. I really battled over it for the last couple years whether to put a number on it, whether to make a decision that this is the year or this is the season off in the future that is going to be my last. I don't think you can do that. When it's not fun and exciting anymore you just get out and you do something else," Earnhardt said.

"I think he's in a great spot and it shows when I see him. He's happy and it seems like he's loving life, enjoying what he's doing, looking forward to racing. We all are. You get a couple months off and everybody gets rejuvenated and ready to rock," Earnhardt's teammate Kasey Kahne said.

Earnhardt is scheduled to test at Phoenix in just a couple of weeks where he hopes to shake off any rust that he may have.