Nascar

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Phoenix test: 'I'm just freakin' pumped about this'

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 06: Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 06: Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Anyone who has been around racing and Dale Earnhardt Jr. much at all over the years knows that normally the Hendrick Motorsports driver doesn't seem too excited about testing.

That was not the case Tuesday when he got on track for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series test at Phoenix International Raceway.

"We were coming here to test and I was just texting the guys (on his No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet team). I'm like, 'Man, I don't know why but I'm just freakin' pumped up about this,' " Earnhardt told the media after turning laps at PIR.

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He has good reason.

Earnhardt missed the last half of the 2016 season because of a concussion. He was cleared to return behind the wheel only in December after making some laps at Darlington Raceway, so Tuesday marked his most serious work toward truly getting ready for his return in a real race in the season-opening Daytona 500 live on FOX on Feb. 26.

More than anything, Earnhardt just seemed to be ecstatic about being reunited with crew chief Greg Ives and the rest of his team members.

"It's been a while," Earnhardt said. "You miss the camaraderie and the friendships that I have on my road crew. I think they miss me, so that makes you feel good. They seem excited that we're working together and we're back together. When you go out there and you're able to learn and put laps down and the communication is right there -- and Greg and I are communicating real well -- it makes you feel good."

Earnhardt was so pumped that he made it a point to be the first car on the track for Tuesday's opening test session, only to have a little problem that he joked about on Twitter.

1st car on the track for the @PhoenixRaceway test. I was hoping to set the track on 🔥but I set my brakes on 🔥 instead. Minor delay.

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) January 31, 2017

"We had a little hiccup this morning with a small brake fire, but we got underway and tried some stuff on our list," Earnhardt said. "We've got a pretty long list, and Greg and those guys are motoring right through it. We've seen that the car has a lot of really good speed.

"Looking at the 22 (of Joey Logano) and the 4 (of Kevin Harvick) -- cars that have had real good speed here in the past and will again -- we're right there with them, and I like the way the car feels. It's been a fun day. ... As far as driving the car, I felt real comfortable out there."

Of course, Earnhardt wasn't the only driver involved in the two-day test, which will conclude Wednesday.

The aforementioned Logano turned 19 of the 22 fastest laps in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford in Tuesday's first session, although the fastest lap overall was recorded by Kyle Larson in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

All in all, it was a good day -- and not just for Earnhardt. Check out some of the other social-media posts from PIR.

Here is @KevinHarvick's first lap in a Ford at Phoenix Raceway! 🏎💨 pic.twitter.com/Y27AdaGEwn

— Phoenix Raceway (@PhoenixRaceway) January 31, 2017

✔️ all is good here!😎 https://t.co/ueXFkOci2g

— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) January 31, 2017

.@erik_jones put the @ToyotaRacing No. 77 through its paces at @PhoenixRaceway earlier. #5hourENERGY #WeAreFurnitureRow pic.twitter.com/zoOeqFYwW3

— Furniture Row Racing (@FRRacingTeam) January 31, 2017

Great press conference with @DaleJr following his morning NASCAR Testing session. Happy to have him back! 😀 pic.twitter.com/8HSPXDaNcq

— Phoenix Raceway (@PhoenixRaceway) January 31, 2017