When Twitter exploded with well wishes and congratulations on a great career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was listening.
And he was appreciating.
After announcing Tuesday (April 25) he will retire from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition following the 2017 season, Earnhardt said the support has been special.
“The response from the last six hours, from teammates, friends, fans, has been incredibly overwhelming,” Earnhardt said in a press conference held at Hendrick Motorsports headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, on Tuesday. “I want to thank everyone for making me feel pretty incredible today.”
Though much of Junior Nation is at a loss for words, for Earnhardt, the decision to hang up the helmet was straightforward.
“If you’re wondering why I reached this decision, its really simple; I just want the opportunity to go out on my own terms,” he said. “I wanted to honor my commitment to Rick [Hendrick, car owner], my sponsors, my team and to the fans.”
After suffering a concussion last season, Earnhardt sat out the last half of 2016 while recovering. During that time, the 42-year-old arrived at a realization when it came to racing.
“As you know, I missed a few races last year,” he said. “During that time, I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me having the vote. That especially true in racing. During my rehab, I was given something I was not accustom to, and that time. A time to understand what is important to me and the incredible support system I have in my team and my doctors.
“That become my motivation, to come and stand here on this podium to announce my choice.”
The toughest part of this decision wasn’t to give up his Cup ride, but to tell the news to Rick Hendrick, who he has raced for since 2008, almost a month ago.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the toughest thing about this was having to tell Rick,” he said. “I didn’t want to disappoint you. You mean so much to me. On March 29, I drove over and had a conversation with him and he told me he loved me.”
Hendrick said he appreciated what he and Earnhardt were able to accomplish in the eight full season together.
“You have delivered and given more than anybody I know,” Hendrick told Earnhardt. “I’m fortunate today because you and I have a lot left to do. I’m excited about the next chapter. There will never be another Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.
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