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Earnhardt, Jr. to retire at the end of 2017

MGN Online

Columbia, S.C (WACH) - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

Earnhardt's team, Hendrick Motorsports, announced the news Tuesday morning.

According to an afternoon press conference, Earnhardt told team owner Rick Hendrick of the decision on March 29 and did so to leave the sport "on his own terms."

However, he won't be out of the car for long; Earnhardt is slated to run two NASCAR Xfinity Series events in 2018 for his own team, JR Motorsports.

"This is not the end of the road. There's a lot of racing left," Earnhardt said.

Retirement was brought up last year when Earnhardt sat out the final 18 races of the 2016 season due to a concussion. He made his official return at the beginning of 2017.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement on Earnhardt's announcement, saying, "Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is among the most recognizable athletes in the world, unequivocally serving as the sport's most popular driver for more than a decade. His passion for the sport will leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history. Over his 20-plus year career, Dale has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport -- all the way to its roots."

The two-time Daytona 500 winner's career will come to a close after over 600 races behind the wheel since his first Cup Series start in May 1999.

In addition to winning 26 Cup races, Earnhardt also qualified for the championship playoffs eight times and won the fan-voted NASCAR's Most Popular Driver award 14 years in a row.

As of now Hendrick Motorsports has not announced a replacement.

Earnhardt's last race will be the season-ending event at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19.

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