I know this has nothing to do with Cleveland sports so if you don’t read it, I’ll understand.
While I was at work this morning, I got the news that my favorite NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was retiring from the sport at the end of this year.
I wasn’t really shocked because I’ve been preparing for this moment for the last several months. The tone in his voice during interviews once he was cleared to race again was that he was at ease with his career accomplishments and that if this I was the last season, he was going to be okay with it.
He got married this past December and wants to start a family with his wife Amy. I also think he’s worried about his long term health.
For those that don’t know, last June he suffered a concussion, at least his third during his racing career that was documented. It forced him to sit out the last five months of last season.
I think Earnhardt Jr. wants to be able to enjoy the rest of his life with his wife and eventually his kids without worrying about potentially long term brain injuries or a potential death at a young age much like his father in 2001.
When talking about Dale Earnhardt Jr., the race car driver, he’s had quite the list of accomplishments throughout his career.
- 26 career Monster Energy Cup Series wins
- 24 career Xfinity Series wins
- 1998 & 1999 Xfinity Series champion (then called the Busch Series)
- 2 Daytona 500 victories (2004, 2014)
- 2000 Winston All Star Race
- 2003 and 2008 Budweiser Shootout winner
- 14 consecutive Most Popular Driver Award winner (2003-2016)
- Over $95 million dollars in career race winnings
Of course people will question how good Jr. was because he never won a championship. He finished in the top five in points three times with his best finish being third in 2003.
People will call him overrated and say the only reasons he was popular was because of his last name. That may all be true but you can’t deny the talent Dale Jr. had on the race track especially on the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega.
Ten of his 24 career victories came on the restrictor plate tracks that his father dominated during the 80s and 90s. He won four straight at Talladega from 2001 to 2003.
I know his official retirement is still seven months away but it’s going to be weird not seeing him out on the track and not seeing that #88 car that his fans have grown accustom to.
In closing, if somehow you see this Dale Jr., thanks for the memories.
Like the first race back at Daytona after your father’s passing when you stormed to the front in the final laps to an emotional victory.
When you won the very first race after the September 11th attacks and you did a victory lap and carried the American flag.
Both of your Daytona 500 wins.
When you didn’t win for a long time but didn’t give up and kept on fighting until you finally broke the four year winless streak at Michigan in 2012.
And for carrying on the Earnhardt name with pride and honor, I know your dad is looking down and smiling after making the tough yet smart and right decision today.
Thanks Dale Jr.