NASCAR's Most Popular Driver to Retire at Season's End
Exactly what happens when a racecar driver decides to retire? If the recent retirements of Jeff Gordon from NASCAR's Cup series and Jensen Button from Formula 1 are indicators, they take a few months off then crawl behind the wheel of someone else's ride. So, don't expect Dale Earnhardt Jr. to disappear into the sunset after the final race of 2017 Monster Energy Cup season. In fact, during his retirement address, the 42-year old announced that he would be behind the wheel of a JR Motorsports Xfinity car a couple times next season. Now in its 15th year of NASCAR competition, JR Motorsports has provided Earnhardt with a perfect environment to work with younger drivers entering the sport.
As a third generation driver and team owner, it was inevitable that Dale Jr. would follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Ralph and father Dale Sr. That does not, however, mean that it was always smooth sailing for Junior. In the 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Sr. was killed on the last lap after pushing teammate Michael Waltrip to the lead and eventual win. Following his father's death, Dale Jr. was stuck working in the family racing business his father had built with his stepmother Teresa. When she and Dale Jr. had a falling out, Junior shocked the NASCAR world by walking away from the #8 car that he had made famous.
The down-to-earth nature that Dale Jr. has always displayed in the face of adversity has earned him the title of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver fourteen times. Although his on-track career will fall short of his father's seven Cup titles, Junior has more than proven himself off the track, as one of racing's richest competitors. Since 2008, he has remained undeniably loyal to team owner Rick Hendrick, a relationship that helped propel Junior to many successful business ventures. Dale Jr. has appeared on more than 150 magazine covers and has been featured in high-profile publications, such as Maxim, Rolling Stone, GQ, Men's Journal, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Men's Fitness and TV Guide.
With a history of taking life in stride, Dale Jr. has gallantly worked his way through back-to-back seasons filled with frustrations. Last year, when it appeared he had the car to compete for the Cup Championship, Junior had to take a hiatus due to recurring problems with post-concussion syndrome. Dale Jr. returned in 2017 looking faster than ever only to struggle through the first eight races having led a grand total of eight laps. What the future holds for Dale Jr. as well as what retirement really means are certain to unfold on the NASCAR stage. But, keep a close eye on JR Motorsports. In recent years, Junior has been a mentor both on and off the track to some of the sport's most promising young drivers. So, he may be spending a lot time in the winner's circle as a team owner.