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February 22, 2017
A NASCAR Cup Series championship is the one major accolade that has eluded Dale Earnhardt Jr. during his career, and he admitted Wednesday that accomplishing that goal in 2017 would cause him to consider retirement.
According to ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass, Junior said little would compel him to continue racing if he manages to secure the points title:
If I won the championship this year, it’d be hard not to call it a career. I don’t know why else I would come back to race other than for the fans. I would have done everything that I have wanted to accomplish, so I’d have to find different means of motivation to come back. I’m sure I could find it.
We got great fans out there that would love to see us continue to race. They hate whenever we mention the ‘retirement’ word. It’d be hard to make that decision, but it’d be tough not to consider. Going out on top is the best way to do it.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 will mark Earnhardt’s first competitive race since missing the final 18 races of 2016 due to a concussion.
The 42-year-old veteran further explained his stance and reiterated that retirement would be tempting after winning a championship:
I would definitely not want to come back and try to race anymore if I won a championship. I’d be out of here. … I would like to race more, but if I win the championship, I would have to consider going out on top.
It really depends on a lot of different things. I said that a little tongue-in-cheek yesterday. But I’d definitely consider it. That’s the last box that I don’t have checked.
Earnhardt’s best career points finish was a third-place result in 2003. He has finished inside the top 10 on seven occasions and had made the Chase five straight years before injury knocked him out last season.
Several high-profile drivers have retired in recent years, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
A victory Sunday in the Daytona 500 would be the third of Earnhardt’s career, and it would essentially lock him in to the Chase and give him an opportunity to vie for a title.