What If Dale Earnhardt Jr. Calls It Quits?

Will his head injuries make him decide to quit?
Will his head injuries make him decide to quit?

First, let's state there is no reason to believe Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will announce his retirement soon. As of this writing, Earnhardt will miss this weekend's Brickyard 400, as well as the following event at Pocono Raceway. There has been nothing stated, though, about plans beyond Pocono.

However, with an injury as dangerous as a concussion and his history of suffering similar injuries, there is always a chance that NASCAR's Most Popular Driver may put his health above everything else and step away from the sport.

With such a decision would come ramifications to be felt across NASCAR.

Could Junior Nation exist without its leader behind the wheel of the #88 every race weekend? Consider the questions raised by legions of Jeff Gordon fans when their hero retired at the end of the 2015 season: Would they root for the #24 with Chase Elliott driving the car? Would they find someone else to cheer for? Would their interest in NASCAR end with Gordon's final checkered flag? Dale Jr. fans could find themselves asking those same questions, up to and including whether or not they continue to follow NASCAR.

If the answer to that final question is “Yes" among many fans, NASCAR could have a major issue on its hands. With analysts already concerned about falling ratings and attendance, even the most optimistic NASCAR official would worry about the retirement of Dale Earnhardt, Jr, coming so soon after those of Gordon and Tony Stewart. After all, NASCAR would be losing its 13-time Most Popular Driver, with a name that has all but transcended the sport.

What of Hendrick Motorsports? What options does Rick Hendrick have in replacing Dale Jr.? He could take advantage of his ties to JR Motorsports and elevate a young driver such as Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer or Alex Bowman. With all due respect to those drivers, none of them would be able to replace Junior in terms of merchandise, marketing or fan support.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr should find himself in a position, whether today or years down the road, where he must seriously consider retirement, he will most likely consider the effect such a move might have on his fans, his team, and his sport. Nevertheless, the final decision must be what is best for him and his health. Even the most disappointed should not fault him for that. Popular Speed

Leave a Reply