A driver who is one of the biggest stars of NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup circuit, even though his recent results on the track have been disappointing, confirmed today that he is retiring.
Autoweek reports that Dale Earnhardt Jr., a two-time Daytona 500 winner and the son of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, said this morning the current season will be his last as a driver.
Earnhardt Jr., 42, has been named the circuit’s most popular driver every season going back to 2003. “Junior” held a news conference today with his Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick to discuss his decision.
“The fact that Earnhardt is retiring at a relatively young age doesn’t come as a complete shock,” Autoweek notes. “Although he insists he still loves driving race cars and looks forward to the weekly competition, he’s never come across as someone who must have racing to make his life complete. (Certainly, not to the extent that his late father, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, did).”
Earnhardt Jr.’s father died in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Junior sat out the second half of the 2016 season due to a series of concussions, making his return to the circuit in February of this year for the Daytona 500.
“But this season’s first eight races have been especially difficult,” Autoweek notes. “He crashed out at Daytona Beach, Martinsville, and Bristol, finishing in the 30s in each one. He finished five laps down in 30th at Atlanta, and finished in the teens at Las Vegas and Phoenix. His only top 10 finishes were sixth at Fontana and fifth at Fort Worth. He’s led only eight laps and is currently 24th in points.”
In his 19 seasons on NASCAR’s senior circuit, Earnhardt Jr. has won 26 races in his 603 starts, most recently at Phoenix in 2015.
Here’s a clip of Earnhardt Jr.’s latest mishap, in Monday’s race at Bristol, Tenn. …