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Earnhardt Jr. To Retire Following The 2017 Season

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 25 2017

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has announced that 2017 will be his final season as a Cup driver. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday morning that NASCAR’s most popular driver will retire after the current racing season. On Tuesday afternoon, Earnhardt held a press conference to address his decision.

The reason for retiring, he said, was wanting to call his own shots about his career.

“So that became my motivation, the opportunity to stand here at this podium to announce my choice, rather than some fate that was decided for me,” Earnhardt said during a press conference on Tuesday “In that regard, the race car wasn’t my goal. It was simply the vehicle that got me here today.”

The decision, he said, began to come together during his 2016 injury-induced hiatus from driving.

Miss it next year? You bet, he said.

“I’ll miss that camaraderie, and I’ll miss it for the rest of my life,” Earnhardt said of his relationships with his team and within the sport. “But the friendships I’ve made will live beyond the time that was spent in the garage together…

“I also want to thank NASCAR for giving me and a lot of other fortunate people a place to race. I’ve never taken that for granted.”

Earnhardt had said in the past that if were to win the Cup championship which has eluded him, he would likely step away from the sport.

This year, the going has been tough for him. But, he said, there is still time to get that championship this season.

“I’m going to be in Richmond this weekend with my foot on the floor, going down the straightaway, and this press conference will be a distant memory,” Earnhardt, 42, said.

Earnhardt took several shots at winning a Cup championship during his 18 seasons as he notched top-five points finishes four times.

He also won NASCAR Xfiniity Series (then the Busch Series) in 1998 and ’99.

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. is among the most recognizable athletes in the world, unequivocally serving as the sport’s most popular driver for more than a decade,” NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said. “His passion for the sport will leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history. Over his 20-plus year career, Dale has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport – all the way to its roots. We’re excited about the next chapter of his NASCAR career and wish him success for the remainder of 2017.”

The following is a statement released by HMS on Tuesday morning:

After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. Today, he shared the news with members of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.

The fan favorite and two-time Daytona 500 champion will discuss his decision in a press conference this afternoon. He will be joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, for whom Earnhardt has driven since 2008. The two first met about the driver’s decision on March 29.

Earnhardt, who will turn 43 in October, made his first career Cup Series start on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has captured 26 points-paying Cup race wins and been voted by fans as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 14 consecutive years. He has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times.

Now in the midst of his 18th full-time season at the elite Cup level, Earnhardt made his 600th career series start on March 26 at Fontana, California. He will compete in his final NASCAR Cup Series race on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports will announce plans for its 2018 team alignment at a later date.”

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Junior by the numbers:

1 – Won his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race (1998) and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (2000) at Texas Motor Speedway.

2 – NASCAR XFINITY Series championships (1998, 1999)

2 – Daytona 500 victories (2004, 2014)

6 – Most number Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career wins in a single season (2004)

8 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff appearances

10 – NASCAR XFINITY Series career Coors Light poles

12 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts until his first series win

13 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career Coors Light poles – tied with Brad Keselowski, Dick Rathmann and Greg Biffle for 56th-most all-time

14 – Consecutive Most Popular Driver Awards won from 2003-2016, a NASCAR record

24 – NASCAR XFINITY Series race wins – ranked 10th-most all-time

26 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race wins – ranked 29th-most all-time

50 – Combined NASCAR national series race wins – ranked 20th-most all-time

67 – Career NASCAR XFINITY Series top-five finishes – tied with Clint Bowyer and Sam Ard for 21st-most all-time

88.9 – Career average driver rating in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2005 – 12th-best in the series

90 – NASCAR XFINITY Series career top-10 finishes – ranked 38th-most all-time

149 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top-five finishes – ranked 23rd-most all-time

253 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top-10 finishes – ranked 24th-most all-time

603 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts – ranked 25th-most in series history

741 – NASCAR national series combined starts – ranked 33rd-most all-time

8,195 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career laps led – ranked 23rd-most all-time

171,861 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career laps completed – ranked 21st-most all-time

 

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 25 2017
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