There’s a reason Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver on 14 consecutive occasions.

Earnhardt delivered a message to “JR Nation” from inside his No. 88 Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, just minutes before he started his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Rather than reflect on his own achievements, Earnhardt thanked fans for their unwavering support, which he said helped open numerous doors throughout his career, both with race teams and sponsors.

“The fans — that are here and that are at home watching — they’ve made all this possible,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said ahead of the Ford EcoBoost 400.” And what I mean by that is their support of my career has led up to every opportunity I’ve ever had, whether it be working with one of the greatest companies and owners in the business, partnering with amazing sponsors — there’s a long list of those. All those opportunities happened because of fan support, and that’s why we wanted to show them ‘appreci88ion‘ all year. It’s a big day for NASCAR, and I hope that fans see a great race.”

Before he closed his visor and focused on the 267-lap race, Earnhardt also delivered a message to his future colleagues at NBC Sports.

“Guys, we’re going to have some fun next year. Everybody enjoy tonight.”

Prior to leading the field on an honorary pace lap, Earnhardt also took a special trip down victory lane to say thank you to every team.

It probably wasn’t easy for Earnhardt to clear his head and get in race mode at Homestead no matter what, but the emotionally charged tributes Sunday morning probably didn’t make it any easier.