“We’d love to have another child,” Earnhardt Jr. tells PEOPLE at his home in Mooresville, North Carolina, a 300-acre ranch-like estate where he and Amy are raising their first daughter, Isla Rose, who was born in April.
“We’re kind of in the trenches still, a little bit,” Amy says wryly, but notes that at their age — he’s 44, she’s 36 — conversations about having children are time sensitive.
“We want her to have a sibling, so we’ll try sooner [rather] than later,” she says.
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Isla, who joined her parents for a PEOPLE photo shoot wearing a footed and floppy-eared bunny suit for the occasion, came into the world amid a whirlwind of change for her father.
A NASCAR superstar who was raised in racing alongside his dad, champion Dale Earnhardt Sr., Earnhardt Jr. announced last April that he would retire at the end of the season after decades in the sport, which had 15 times voted him the most popular driver.
What motivated the decision? A secret struggle with concussions, which he only revealed in full to his family in 2016 as he was forced to miss half a year of competitions in rehab. He opened up about his health journey in the memoir Racing to the Finish, released last month.
“I just don’t have the confidence that I could go race and not get hurt,” he says now. “You can’t … drive race cars without that confidence.”
Though he may not make his living behind the wheel of a car anymore, Earnhardt Jr.’s day-to-day is possibly busier than it has ever been between his analyst gig for NBC sports, various racing-related businesses (run with his sister, Kelley), his burgeoning line of Whisky River restaurants and more.
But even with all that work, the pressure and anxiety of weekly racing is gone.
“I have this happiness over the fact that I don’t have to worry about getting hurt,” Earnhardt Jr. says. “When I come home to [Isla], I don’t have to worry about ever coming home hurt. I don’t ever have to worry about spending months with symptoms while she’s turning 1. You know what I mean? Me and Amy get to experience this together.”
In general, Amy says, “Life’s a lot less stressful,” explaining, “Everything revolved around whether he did well or not in that race car. I don’t think he even realized it until he got out, how much it affected his day.”
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While Earnhardt Jr. says he’s having a blast on TV, he’s sure his time at the track isn’t forever. Some day, though it’s hard to say when, his family is “going to disappear.”
“We’re just going to go do whatever we want,” he says. And Amy adds, “Try and be normal.”
“I look forward to it,” Earnhardt Jr. says. “There’ll be a day when me and her just hang out and don’t need to be anywhere.”
So does that mean Isla may never follow in her father’s footsteps, and his father’s before him?
Earnhardt Jr. and Amy aren’t necessarily thrilled at the idea of her racing — it poses its own risks, as anything does — but they would never stand in her way.
“I think that she’s going to tell us what she loves,” he says. “We’ll both just try to love her and see if that’s good enough.”