Dale Earnhardt Jr. reveals the one thing that would send him into retirement

Photo by Yvonne Jones

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For fans who want to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win a title, be careful what you wish for.

On stage at Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday, Earnhardt said if he won a cha­mpionship­­ he would consider hanging it up.

“Hell yeah, man. I would definitely not want to come back and try to race anymore if I won the championship,” he said. “I would be out of here.”

The Kannapolis, North Carolina native first dropped the hint on the ‘Dan Patrick Show’ on NBCSN a day earlier when he said he would retire on the spot at the year-ending banquet in Las Vegas if he ever earned that elusive title.

“It just really depends on a lot of different things,” he said. “I said that a little tongue-in-cheek yesterday, but I’d definitely consider it because that’s the last box I don’t have checked, really.

“There’s a few races I’d like to win, but the championship would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career.”

Earnhardt owns two championships – 1998 and ’99 – in the Xfinity Series, but none since reaching the top level in 1999. He has won 26 races in 595 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is returning from concussion-like symptoms that sidelined him for the final 18 races of last season. He’s also in the final year of a five-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to win a championship so badly,” Earnhardt said.  “Coming back from this injury, we worked so hard.  To come back this year, win a championship, it would be hard not to hang it up.

“This is the last year of my deal. I would like to race more, but if I win the championship I’d have to consider going out on top.”

Exiting the sport at 42 wouldn’t be surprising; Carl Edwards just retired at 37. But it would be a big blow to Junior Nation, which voted him most popular driver for the 14th straight season in 2016.

For now Earnhardt is focused on Sunday’s Daytona 500. He will start on the front row as he seeks to win the Great American Race for the third time. He won the event in 2004 and ’14.

“Everybody wants to win the Daytona 500 whether you have won it before or not,” he said.  “That celebration is unlike any other.  The people that are there and watching the race locally and on TV, I don’t know that you get a better crowd.  If you want to make a statement that is the place to do it.”

 

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