The end of an era. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is set to retire from the NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season, Hendrick Motorsports announced in a press release on Tuesday, April 25.
The professional race car driver, 42, who has earned 14 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Most Popular Driver awards since 2003, began his career at the age of 24 in 1999. He has won 26 times in 603 starts, including Daytona 500 victories in 2004 and 2014 and championships in 1998 and 1999.
Hendrick Motorsports has yet to announce a replacement for Earnhardt. ESPN reported that Earnhardt had originally planned to extend his contract, which ends after this season, before he suffered a concussion during the 2016 season.
The athlete returned to the racetrack this year after being sidelined for the final half of last year’s season, due to the concussion. He has since become a vocal advocate for funding research for sports-related brain injuries.
Earnhardt is a third generation NASCAR driver. His late father, Dale Earnhardt, won seven championships, tying Richard Petty for the all-time record, before he died on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in a February 2001 crash. Earnhardt’s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, had 16 top 10 finishes throughout his career from 1955 to 1966.
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