dale earnhardt jr. retires

(Image/Chris Trotman)

Dale Earnhardt Jr.—NASCAR’s most-popular driver for 14 consecutive years—will retire after the 2017 racing season, Hendrick Motorsports announced today.

Earnhardt is 42.

He missed the final 18 races of 2016 due to a concussion, missed two races in 2012 because of multiple concussions, and appears to be walking away from a Hall of Fame racing career to avoid adding any more head trauma to the list.

Earnhardt addressed this very topic to ESPN when discussing Carl Edwards equally sudden and surprising decision to retire from NASCAR racing.

“I think Carl figured out a way to get into a place to make that decision easy,” Earnhardt said. “And I can do the same thing when the time comes, and I won’t have any regrets. It’s not going to be a lot of fun to retire, I can imagine.

“You’ve seen a lot of people, athletes, retire in the past. It seems a very difficult statement to make, a very difficult press conference to have. But when I’m ready to do that, I’ll be making that decision knowing it’s the right thing to do.”

Hendrick Motorsports has not announced a replacement for Earnhardt, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Earnhardt, better known as “Junior” or “Little E” to the NASCAR faithful, has 26 wins in 603 starts, including Daytona 500 victories in 2004 and 2014.

His father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., is one of the most iconic figures in NASCAR history. He died after sustaining injuries in a final-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500.

You can read more about Earnhardt Jr.’s announced retirement at ESPN.