Earnhardt Jr’s legendary career ends today By Stephen Siracusa

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Updated: April 25, 2017

Earnhardt Jr’s legendary career ends today 

By Stephen Siracusa 

Hendrick Motorsports announced Earnhardt Jr’s decision to retire Tuesday morning and said the driver would hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon to provide the reasoning behind his decision.

Earnhardt Jr, 43 years old, missed the second half of the 2016 season after suffering a midseason concussion and said he was going to delay the start of the 2017 season and begin talks on a contract extension with HendrickMotorsports.

His current contract expires at the end of 2017, and the announcement was the answer to why Earnhardt Jr tweeted Tuesday morning that he was up so early.

Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement means NASCAR’s three biggest stars will have had retired in consecutive seasons. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who helped sub for Earnhardt last season, retired at the end of the 2015 season, while three-time champ Tony Stewart hung up his fire suit at the end of 2016.  Earnhardt Jr.’s popularity started out as loyal fans of his father went on to support his son after his death.  Earnhardt Jr. was the last driver left who so clearly bridges old NASCAR and new NASCAR allowing him to gain the old school population. The 14 time most popular driver award winner is so popular that Nationwide, which once sponsored NASCAR’s No. 2 series, moved to sponsor him after not renewing the series title sponsorship for what’s now the Xfinity Series.

“While Nationwide and the rest of Junior Nation will miss seeing him on the track, we fully support Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision to step away from racing in NASCAR,” a Nationwide statement said. “Dale Jr. has been a tremendous partner and friend to Nationwide. We look forward to continuing our relationship with him after the conclusion of what’s sure to be a memorable 2017 season.”

Junior finished 38th place in Monday’s race at Bristol speedway after an apparent oil line issue caused his car to hit the wall. Despite his luck at Bristol he has had 26 career Cup wins in 603 starts and finished third in the points standings in 2003. He was 12th in 2015, his last full season in the Cup Series. He’s currently 24th in the pointsstandings and has a chance to make NASCAR’s playoffs for a final time if he wins a race or gets high enough in the points standings.  It would be a great culmination to his career if he is able to participate in the playoffs in his final season.  

Hendrick Motorsports said future plans for the No. 88 team would be announced at a later date.

 

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