NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. thanked supporters and said his family is "truly blessed" in his first public statement since last week's plane crash. The four adults, one baby, and one dog on Earnhardt Jr.'s private plane escaped with only minor injuries after it rolled off the runway and caught fire at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee. "Amy and I want to thank everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots, and our dog Gus."
"With respect to the investigation, we will not be speculating or discussing the cause of the accident," the 44-year-old said. "I am thankful for the quick response of my pilots, local law enforcement, emergency personnel, and hospital staff." He also said he appreciated the privacy his family has been given to process the accident, Fox reports. "It has been important to do that together and on our own time," said Earnhardt Jr., who retired from racing full-time in 2017 and is now a NASCAR analyst for NBC. First responders who attended to the crash were given free tickets to Saturday's race at the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway. (Police say the "grace of the good Lord" saved motorists after the plane ended up on Highway 91.)