Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire at the end of the season after more than 600 Cup Series races, Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday.
Earnhardt, in his 18th season, has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive seasons. Earnhardt is a two-time Dayton 500 champion but has never won a Cup Series title. He won his first of 26 Cup victories in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt, 42, who was married during the off-season, missed the last 18 races of the 2016 season with concussion-like symptoms.
“He came back, he proved that he could do it, and there’s no reason to continue on,” Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. “I know had he asked me last year I would have said, “What’s the point of coming back? You’ve accomplished so much don’t push it.’ He did, and I think he’s proved to himself and others that he could still do it.”
He will be joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The two started talking about Earnhardt’s retirement on March 29, days after his 600th Cup Series start at Fontana.
Earnhardt is the latest big name to walk away from the sport. Jeff Gordon retired in 2015 and Tony Stewart followed in 2016.
“I only race cars ‘cause it’s fun,” Earnhardt said in March during Texas Motor Speedway’s media day in Dallas.
“I just enjoy working with my team and my guys, the camaraderie and the friendships. I just enjoy the relationships and friendships and that’s why I drive. Obviously we’ve got a big fan base that has a lot of fun when we do well, so you’d like to be out there and run well while you’re doing it.”
His last race at Texas will be Nov. 4.