But nothing compares to the blow the sport was dealt on Monday morning.
Earnhardt Jr. abruptly announced his retirement at the end of the season Tuesday, April 25, 2017, a decision that will cost NASCAR its most popular driver as the series scrambles to rebuild its fan base.
Sadler said that Earnhardt's legacy will always be intact both at Talladega, and in the sport of NASCAR in general. His earliest entries in the premier series carried No. 8, the number favored by his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt.
Dale Jr.is now ranked 24th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Fortunately for me, I'll get two chances this year to salute the end of Dale Jr.'s career in person. He said he wants to be part of the "future of this sport" for many years to come.
"The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name, but throughout the ups and downs that occured to me, the fans stuck it out", Earnhardt Jr. said. Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson are carrying the four-car team in 2017, but Johnson said in February that he would begin considering retirement whenever "the time is right".
"This is a new batch of guys that are going to do things in a new way". If they don't quite learn from them, you step in there and you say, 'This is what happened there and this is why that happened.' And if they don't understand what went wrong there, they continue to make that mistake again.
"He's got flair and is personable with fans".
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Although the recent retirements of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and the scheduled departure of Earnhardt are seen as big negatives for the sport, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell, who attended the press conference, rejected thoughts of dire consequences.
It's impossible to know exactly how many fans of Earnhardt had first cheered for his father, also one of the sport's most popular stars before he was killed in a crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Hendrick assured Earnhardt, the driver he treated as a son, that his father would have been proud.
"Race auto driver popularity and performance abilities can affect on-track competition, the closeness of championship points racing, attendance, corporate interest, media attention and the appeal and success of racing in general", the company said in its annual report, filed March 10.
Colorful, candid and talented, Earnhardt has been plagued by concussions the last several years and he missed half of last season recovering from a head injury. Can any of the young drivers bridge the gap the way Junior did for generations of older fans heartbroken by the loss of their hero in 2001. During that run, he was the central figure in some of NASCAR's best moments and also one of its most tragic. Penalty drops him out of the lead in the points race at the time. We look at the future and some of the drivers coming up. How do they let their personalities shine through?
An online presence is one way drivers have worked to show their personalities.
"He was kind of like what you see now, laid-back and easygoing", Warren said. "They're not afraid to show their personalities".
However, the decision was not by any means an easy one and Earnhardt Jr. called it bittersweet.
"I knew your daddy pretty well", Hendrick said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.is retiring after 18 seasons in NASCAR on his own terms but he isn't done racing quite yet.
Budweiser's sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. extends Anheuser-Busch's long relationship with seven-time Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt and the Earnhardt family. "It was hard for them to replicate their dad's success".