With Matt Kenseth essentially being forced out of NASCAR after 2017, the end of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final season is stirring up more emotions than he expected.

Earnhardt offered a bit of insight into the two racers’ friendship at Phoenix Raceway, with the Hendrick Motorsports driver saying it’s influenced both how he races and “the person I want to be and become.”

The 43-year-old driver was notoriously shy around other competitors when he was in the Xfinity Series, but the pair quickly became friends after Kenseth went out of his way to talk to Earnhardt. As a result, Earnhardt said they now share a bond that extends well beyond motorsports.

“When we found out the news about Amy’s pregnancy, he joked that he was angry he didn’t get a text from me before he read about it on social media,” the 14-time most popular Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver said. “So that’s the kind of friend he is. He expects to be one of those guys that you text when you have that kind of news, and I love that about Matt. I love that he thinks that’s that friendship that we have, because that’ll be with us long after we’re done driving.”

Although Kenseth proved in the Can-Am 500 that he still has what it takes to win, he currently doesn’t have a ride secured for 2018. As a result, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver couldn’t hold back tears after his victory Sunday, and Earnhardt similarly expects emotions to run high for his last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thumbnail photo via Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images