It’s been about 48 hours since NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced his retirement effective the end of 2017, and JR Nation is rightfully in a panic. I’m here to tell the No. 88 fans one thing: Stay calm. Earnhardt isn’t going anywhere.
Earnhardt, Jr. is by far the most recognizable active NASCAR driver by both race fans, and non-race fans. His retirement will surely send shockwaves across the sporting world, and it will have a huge affect on NASCAR.
No. 88 fans are dedicated to their driver, and many online have already gone so far to say they may stop watching altogether, or at least lose their interest to tune in each week. However, this would be a gross overreaction. Jr. will still likely be around the garage most weekends as he still owns his NASCAR XFINITY Series team, which, by the way, he will compete with in two races next season for.
Earnhardt has also expressed interest over the last few years in stepping into the broadcast booth when he retires, much like Jeff Gordon, another driver who recently retired. Whether this happens next year or not, with his stature in the sport, the opportunity will always be open for him as long as he wants it. Earnhardt also has the Dirty Mo Radio podcasts that he does with JR Motorsports, which he is heavily involved with.
And if No. 88 fans need another reason to stick around, what about all the exciting talent coming up through the ranks? Drivers like Chase Elliott and William Byron, who Earnhardt helped groom, along with Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace, Jr., and of course, Earnhardt’s latest protégé, Alex Bowman. When you look at all these drivers and their booming personalities, the future of the sport looks pretty bright.
Let’s face it: Earnhardt has grown up in and surrounded by NASCAR. You can’t keep him away from it, even if he won’t be driving.