Dale Earnhardt Jr. was never what his father was when behind the wheel.
Dale Sr. was a vicious competitor and winner of 76 NASCAR races. Dale Jr., who announced his retirement on Tuesday effective at the end of this season, has won 26.
Dale the Younger was, however, NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 straight years. Fans loved him and the No. 88 car. His career is not undistinguished, just not the equal of dear old dad’s.
Junior, 42, did win the Daytona 500 twice. But he never won the NASCAR championship, which his father did seven times. His father, however, died in a wreck at Daytona in 2001. Junior, after missing half of last season with concussion-like symptoms, took himself out of the race before something untoward could catch up with him.
“As you know, I missed a few races last year and during that time I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote on the table. Of course, in life we’re not promised a vote, and that’s especially true in racing,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt will still get behind the wheel. He has a commitment to drive in a couple of Xfinity races (the series just below NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup) next year and he’ll find a different role in the racing world.
“I do have ambition to work,” Earnhardt said. “I’m not going to quit working. There’s a feeling to being an asset to something. I don’t have to be the guy holding the trophy, but being a part of that success, I really enjoy. I really enjoy making people happy and doing stuff as a team. I think I can replicate that in the next chapter of my life.”
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman
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