Hendrick Motorsports sent out an official release on Tuesday morning announcing the retirement of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of the 2017 season.
The Kannapolis, NC native sat out a majority of the 2016 season after suffering from concussion symptoms nearly halfway through the season. Earnhardt Jr. made his return to the sport in this year’s Daytona 500 with a lot of hope and promise, but it has been anything but. The No.88 Nationwide Chevrolet has finished inside the top-10 only once, and has led a small number of only eight laps all together.
Earnhardt, who has won NASCAR’s most popular driver award a record 14 years in a row now, will compete in his final Monster Energy Cup event later this season in the championship finale race on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. has competed in NASCAR’s premiere series for 18 years now, accumulating over 600 starts and 26-career victories. The Hendrick Motorsports driver most recently competed on Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he once again took another hard hit into the wall.
The departure of the most popular driver is something that many in NASCAR have dreaded from quite sometime. Earnhardt Jr. will discuss his decision with team owner Rick Hendrick in a press conference later on Tuesday afternoon. Plans have not been finalized yet about who will fill the seat of the No.88 machine starting in the 2018 season.