By Emily Turner

SONOMA (KPIX 5) — Tens of thousands of NASCAR fans will head to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, with many excited to cheer on one of the biggest names in the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

His name is synonymous with NASCAR. And soon it’ll be headed into retirement.

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This weekend’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 race is the first of Earnhardt Jr’s last season.

And Sunday, he’ll be saying goodbye to the Sonoma Raceway as a full-time driver.

“I certainly have gotten closer to the track and enjoy coming here more than I used to. It was just really, really challenging for me for so long,” said Earnhardt Jr. “But my car has been really good here lately.”

He once said he’d like to blow this track up, consistently struggling with the road course.

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But his break into the top five in 2014, he says, will now be a lasting memory as his career draws to a close

“We probably partied harder for that third place than for any win that year. We were just so proud of ourselves,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I ran here for so long and I think our best finish was eleventh forever.”

He’s been struggling lately, but hoping he can re-cue that good luck for his last go-around.

Plenty of fans have showed up to watch it happen, ready to cheer him on one last time. With his retirement, Earnhardt Jr. is leaving a gaping hole as one of the sport’s biggest names.

“He’s NASCAR’s most popular driver. He’s a big-name driver. Everyone loves Junior,” said fan Riley Garcia. “He’s left a huge mark.”

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For more information on the Toyota/Save Mart 350 this weekend, visit the Sonoma Raceway website.