They don’t, of course, but NASCAR legends seem to stick around forever. One is walking away on his own terms.
In an emotional, hour-long press conference, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced he will be retiring from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after the 2017 season on Tuesday morning.
Earnhardt insisted his involvement with the sport would remain strong, and seeing how he owns JR Motorsports which competes in the Xfinity Series along with his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller and the owner of his famous 88 car, Rick Hendrick, there’s room for optimism that he will.
Dale, Jr. With Long-Time Owner Rick Hendrick
The official announcement came six hours after Hendrick Motorsports made the surprising news public.
“I accomplished way more than I ever dreamed, way more than I ever thought I’d accomplish,” Earnhardt said. “So I’m good, you know. I’m good on that front. I’m so blessed and fortunate on what I was able to achieve but I’m very sad because it’s definitely disappointing for a lot of people to wake up to that news this morning.”
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Earnhardt admitted that his recent health issues that kept him out of half of the 2016 season played a part in his decision.
“I wanted to honor my commitment to Rick, to my sponsors, to my team and to the fans,” Earnhardt said. “I’ll admit that having an influence over my exit only became meaningful when it started to seem most unlikely. As you know, I missed a few races last year and during that time I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote at the table. Of course, in life we’re not promised a vote and that’s especially true in racing.”
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Earnhardt returned to competition in his No. 88 Chevy this year after a concussion and lingering symptoms sidelined him from the final 18 races of the Monster Energy Cup Series last season. Because of his rehabilitation process, Earnhardt has become one of the most vocal advocates for research of sports-related brain injuries.
He said he took the time away from the track “to understand what’s important to me, time to realize the incredible support system I have in my wife, my team and my doctors, and time to work like hell to wrestle back some semblance of say-so in this whole matter.”