Jeff Gordon, FOX NASCAR Analysts React to News of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Retirement Following Conclusion of 2017 NASCAR Season 2016 NASCAR Watkins Glen

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver, announced Tuesday he will retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series following the conclusion of the 2017 season. Earnhardt, who missed the final 18 races of the 2016 season due to a concussion, will step away from racing after a career spanning most of 19 seasons and more than 600 starts.

Below, FOX NASCAR analysts Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy share their thoughts on the news.

FS1 is carrying the Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference live today with a special edition of NASCAR RACE HUB at 3:00 PM ET hosted by Adam Alexander and Shannon Spake. Later in the day, NASCAR RACE HUB airs live at 6:00 PM ET on FS1 with the latest news and analysis.

FOX SPORTS: What was your reaction to the news and its timing?

“Dale Jr. has had a huge impact on our sport – and you can see that every week with his legion of fans and Junior Nation. He has a tremendous sense of the history of NASCAR and, while he shares his father’s name, Dale has made a name for himself with his accomplishments in racing. While we will miss Dale on the track next year, he loves this sport, those working in the industry and the fans too much to ever be too far away.”

--Jeff Gordon, FOX NASCAR analyst and former Earnhardt teammate at Hendrick Motorsports 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dover

“We all knew this was coming, but I thought the horizon was farther out and that he might drive for another season or two. I am happy for Dale Jr. because I’m sure it is a decision he has weighed heavily over quite a long time, and it’s one he is comfortable enough with to announce now and go through an entire season of well-wishes from others.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

“When you look at his age, the length of his career and what he has been through the last few years, it’s not surprising. But the timing blew me away – a Tuesday after a Monday makeup race due to a rainout. But for everyone’s sake, including Dale Jr., Rick Hendrick and the new driver, the sooner, the better. It always sounds simple – you just plug another guy into the race car, but a lot of sponsors have to sign off. They have a lot of decisions to make. They have gotten a huge bang for their buck the past few years and they’re losing the most popular driver in any form of motorsports. They must figure out how to market the next driver. For that reason, the sooner, the better.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Homestead

FOX SPORTS: In a couple of years of each other, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have retired and Carl Edwards stepped away from racing. Are you at all concerned about who will fill their shoes within the garage and among the NASCAR fan base?

“In a very short time, we’ve seen three of the drivers who have had the most impact on the sport in their generation retire and Carl Edwards step aside indefinitely. I remember when (Richard) Petty, (David) Pearson, (Bobby) Allison and (Cale) Yarborough were at the tail end of their careers and everyone was bemoaning, ‘Oh, my gosh, who will step up? Will we have any heroes? Will we have any superstars?’ And, of course, we did. That’s the way sports go. Someone retires and someone else takes their place. I will imagine that by tomorrow morning, everyone from Greg Biffle to Gray Gaulding will have their resume on Rick Hendrick’s desk.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

“From the standpoint of leadership and a driver who is listened to by the industry and fans when he speaks, not to mention his popularity, this is a big hit for NASCAR. But I don’t think Dale Jr. will fade away from view. He has a big presence as a car owner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. But something tells me we probably will see him as a TV race analyst for one of the networks down the road.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kansas

FOX SPORTS: How long will it be until we see the ascendance of the next generation of superstars?

“If you look closely, we’re already seeing it. Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson. We have young drivers with superstar potential that they are just beginning to realize. The difference between this group and the group back in Cale and Bobby’s day is that these young drivers are there already. They are not going to have to race out from underneath the shadow of the established stars because they are making their own way right now. They’re running up front and capable of winning races.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer 2014 NASCAR Daytona Sprint Unlimited

FOX SPORTS: What legacy does Dale Earnhardt Jr. leave behind in the sport?

“You can’t just pinpoint his legacy in one area. He is one of the most down-to-earth, honest guys who doesn’t always say what everyone wants to hear. What he has done off the track is a huge part of his legacy. The number of Make-A-Wish kids he has entertained at the track, for instance, is astounding, as is his work for people in need. Add in the fact he’s a blue-collar racer, like his dad was.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Charlotte

FOX SPORTS: How difficult will the transition be for Hendrick Motorsports and the driver who replaces Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

“It will be no less difficult than when Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s going to be very, very tough. I think William Byron is the heir apparent to the next open seat at Hendrick Motorsports. He has the talent and tools and demeanor, but does he right now have the experience to step into a front-line Cup car? I don’t know. Will they promote him right away or will there be an interim driver until Byron becomes a little more seasoned? I’d be surprised if that isn’t part of the current discussion within the organization.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

“My knee-jerk reaction today would be Alex Bowman to replace Dale Jr. He’s already been in that car and has had some success. He is young and can build upon his previous experience and success. I would hope the thought process isn’t William Byron because he will have only one full year of NASCAR XFINITY Series competition in the books and is only 19 years old. But who knows. There could be someone out there. But it will be sponsorship-driven. It doesn’t matter who Rick Hendrick or Dale Jr. want to replace him as much as what those sponsors want. With the job he did last year and the type of person and driver he is, coupled with his young age, the sport could continue to grow with Alex Bowman.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

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