One of the most beloved figures in NASCAR will be calling it quits at the end of the year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced Tuesday that he’ll retire from NASCAR after the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
After 18 seasons, @DaleJr will bring his Cup Series driving career to a close at the end of 2017.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) April 25, 2017
Earnhardt has won has won 26 times in 603 starts over a career that began in 1999 and stretched nearly two decades.
Pretty much since he broke into the sport, Earnhardt has been one of NASCAR’s most adored drivers, endearing himself to racing fans through charm and good nature. Incredibly, he has won the sport’s Most Popular Driver award 14 times running.
Earnhardt has had to undergo things no driver before him ever had. In 2001, at age 26, Earnhardt was on hand as his father, a racing legend, died during the final lap of the Daytona 500. He later left Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company his father had founded, to race for Hendrick Motorsports, a controversial decision that eventually helped his career.
Earnhardt never captured a championship at NASCAR’s top level, but he did win two Daytona 500s and qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times.
It’s no mystery why Earnhardt Jr. would want to retire at this time. He’ll be 43 in October, and he missed half of last season with a concussion. He’s been married just over a year and might want to start a family.
NASCAR will certainly miss Earnhardt both on and off the track, but fans still have a few months left to enjoy him.