Dale Earnhardt Jr. was gone, and so were they.
Hundreds of fans poured out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grandstands Sunday, barely halfway through the 2017 Brickyard 400, when Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet wheezed into pit road, its radiator smoking, its day done.
Earnhardt climbed out of his car under a sign for Gasoline Alley, drawing the loudest applause of the day, and disappeared from view. Fans in blue Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirts followed him out, walking to the infield parking lots, triggering a bizarre exodus of cars out of IMS even as the Brickyard 400 was still going.
Larryssa Mercer of Brownsburg was wearing a faded blue Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt and a devastated look as she walked out of the grandstands. Not sure that I was seeing what I was seeing, I had to ask her:
Are you leaving because Dale’s out? Is that why everyone’s going?
“Absolutely," said Mercer, 48. “Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I came here to watch Dale race. If he’s not racing anymore, I’m not watching anymore." Indy Star