Earnhardt missed the second half of last season while undergoing intensive treatment for repeated concussions. He also missed two late-season race in 2012 for treatment of concussions and has said as recently as February in Daytona Beach that he’d never want to go through that ordeal again. He also said he’d likely walk away from the sport on the spot if he happened to win the 2017 championship.
NASCAR now finds itself without its most popular driver for only the second time in half a century. There are other drivers that have been more successful on the track but the sports will be without its overwhelmingly most popular star. It's the equivalent of Michael Jordan retiring from basketball. But there is no SHAQ or KOBE waiting in the wings.
Earhhardt has been voted The Most Popular Driver 14 times and has won 26 times in 603 starts over a career that began at age 24 in 1999. Among his accomplishments are two Daytona 500 crowns (2004, 2014) and two championships (1998, 1999) in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.