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NASCAR Cup: Dale Earnhardt Jr. plans to go out on his own terms

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announces his retirement from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition (effective at the end of the 2017 season) during a press conference at Hendrick Motorsports on April 25, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announces his retirement from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition (effective at the end of the 2017 season) during a press conference at Hendrick Motorsports on April 25, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

After Hendrick Motorsports announced via press release Tuesday morning that 14-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., would be retiring from full-time competition in the Cup Series as season’s end, Earnhardt held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to give specifics on his retirement, such as his reasoning for making the decision.

Earnhardt missed the entire second half of the 2016 season because of a concussion. It was the second time he was sidelined by concussion-like symptoms, as he also missed a couple of races in 2012. Last year, as he recovered, he detailed his long and difficult recovery will the public, via social media. During his press conference on Tuesday, the driver explained that returning for the 2017 race season and the call to retire at the end of the year is a way for him to go out on his own terms.

“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 as so much getting a vote at the table,” Earnhardt said.  “Of course, in life,  we’re not promised a vote, and that’s especially true in racing, but during my rehab, I was given something else that I wasn’t accustomed to, and that was time — time 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.  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. In that regard, the race car wasn’t my goal, it was merely the vehicle that got me here today. Now planning my exit this way gives me the chance to publicly thank those who made the last 18 years possible.”

At the start of the 2017 season, with his current contract with Hendrick Motorsports set to expire at season’s end, Earnhardt publicly stated that he was putting off contract negotiations until a couple months into the season, to gauge his performance and health. During his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, he disclosed that he informed car owner Rick Hendrick on March 29 of his plans to retire.

Earnhardt isn’t completely stepping away from NASCAR competition at the end of 2017, though. He will continue as co-owner of the NASCAR Xfinity Series team that bears his name JR Motorsports, and he’s still slated to drive an NXS car for his own team in at least two races next season.

“I don’t see myself really detaching from NASCAR,” Earnhardt said.  “My intention is still to be involved in the sport on some level.  In fact, I still have two Xfinity races to run for JR Motorsports in 2018, so even after this season is over, you’ve not seen the last of me on the racetrack.  But more than that, I want to be a part of the future of this sport for many, many years to come.”

After winning two Busch (now-Xfinity) Series championships in 1998 and 1999 and running five Winston (now-Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series races in 1999, Earnhardt moved to the Cup Series full-time in 2000. He won two-points-paying races and became the first rookie winner of the All-Star Race that year, but lost out to Matt Kenneth in the battle for 2000 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year.

Earnhardt started his NASCAR career with the family-owned Dale Earnhardt Inc., remaining with the team started by his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, through the 2007 season. In 2008, he moved to Hendrick Motorsports. DEI and HMS are the only two teams for which Earnhardt has driven in his NASCAR career. To date, he has 603 starts at the Cup level, resulting in 26 wins — including two Daytona 500 victories — 149 top-fives and 253 top-10 finishes.

So far in 2017, eight races into the 36-race season, Earnhardt has one top-five — a fifth-place showing at Texas Motor Speedway. That finish also his his only top-10, so far, this season.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

WATCH DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S PRESS CONFERENCE HERE

 

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Posted by on April 26, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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