A huge bombshell fell on Tuesday when Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he will retire at the end of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Following are thoughts from some of the sport’s top drivers on the impending departure of Earnhardt.
MCTTNS via Getty Images
“The thing about Dale Jr. is that the engine of Dale Jr. is not just Dale Jr. It’s the swarm of fans that have been behind him that kind of make up that whole program of Junior Nation. That whole thing is why he was able to get as big as he was. It was because he did a good job of being there for those folks, and carrying the flag for the Earnhardt name. They did a good job following him. They built a hell of an engine.”
“I think anytime a driver can go out on his own terms, the way he wants to go out, is huge for any athlete, but especially in racing. So I’m very proud of him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) for being able to fight back through what he went through last year, back to 100 percent, be able to compete, but actually go out on his own terms. That makes him feel really good inside.”
NASCAR via Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
I’m super-proud of him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and really excited for him. I think he’s going to — I always say that someday, when I’m done racing, I’m going to look back and go, “I don’t know how I did it.” And I have a feeling he’s going to look back in a couple of years and go, “Man, I don’t how I did it.”… I also think he’s going to find so much peace and he’s going to be able to follow other hobbies, passions and things that he wants to do in his life, because he’ll have the time and the space.”
“I definitely hate to see him go and leave the driving side of it but I hope he sticks around whether it is in the broadcast booth or things like that. I think he will. You saw Jeff (Gordon) do it and I think Dale is a great person for the sport both in and out of the car. He does a lot of great things that propelled this sport to where it is today. I am sad to see him go but excited to finish out this year with him. That will be really special.”
“Although it’s sad that we have all our veterans and heroes retiring. I think NASCAR is in a great position with all the young talent that they have in the Cup series currently, and really in every feeder series below them, there’s a lot of young guys with great equipment and good backing. So, I think the competition will be good. And, there’s a lot of personalities, too, with people getting themselves out there on social media and stuff like that; showing their personalities.
Martin Truex Jr.
“There's a very high possibility that I wouldn't even be sitting here right now if it wasn't for him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) giving me an opportunity back actually right here at Richmond in 2003. He's been a huge part of the reason I'm here. He's been a great friend throughout the years, somebody I really look up to and a great role model for young drivers.”
“Dale has been more than a role model for the sport and it's great what he has done. Like I said on Twitter last week, I'm kind of new into the sport, but I have learned a lot from him in and out of the racetrack. A great guy, a great driver, and I'm looking forward to keep racing with him this year and to keep hanging out with him, as well, in the future.”