It was announced today in a statement by Hendrick Motorsports that Dale Earnhardt Jr – driver for the number 88 car – would be retiring following the 2017 season.
This may not come as a surprise to many fans given his recent experience with a serious concussion that saw him take some time away from racing to recover. He was side-lined for a total of 18 races. Off the back of that, Dale Jr has now become a vocal advocate for the research into sports-related brain injuries.
Dale Jr has been racing in the NASCAR Cup Series since the age of 24 in 1999. He comes from a line of racing drivers – making him the third-generation Earnhardt to race. His father was also a 7-time NASCAR champion, tying in with the likes of Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson.
According to the statement by Hendrick Motorsports, this is something that has been spoken about for a little while by Dale Jr. The press release mentioned that he broke the news to his team on Tuesday after speaking about it with team owner Rick Hendrick on March 29th.
At the age of 42, he’s in the midst of his 18th NASCAR season. Also among his accomplishments are: 26 cup wins in 603 starts, two Daytona 500 crowns (2004, 2014) and two championships (1998, 1999) in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series. On top of that, fans have voted him as NASCAR’s most popular driver every year since 2003. He has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs 8 times.
The news will undoubtedly come as a blow to NASCAR fans and also fellow drivers. He has made a huge impact on the sport and it is a real shame to see him go. There will be a press conference this afternoon whereby Dale Jr will announce the news officially along with team owner Rick Hendrick.