Leave Junior Alone!
Let's get this out of the way at the start; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. owes you nothing. The man has raced at the highest level of NASCAR for 19 years now. He's earned 26 Cup wins, good enough for 7th among active drivers and 29th overall. He's also finished in the top ten in points seven times. He's accomplished all this in the face of unrealistic expectations many placed on him over the years, simply because of his name. He's also done this at great risk to his physical and mental health, as evidenced by his history of concussions and how they have affected him. Even as he steps away from racing, there will be questions about possible long term consequences. Yet for some in NASCAR fandom, that doesn't seem to be enough.
Although Dale announced earlier this season that he was retiring at the conclusion of this season, the question came up a few weeks ago about whether he might race in the 2018 Clash at Daytona. His wife Amy let it be known that she opposed the idea. Immediately, some extremely vocal and selfish people who would call themselves fans, started directing vitriol in her direction through social media. They stated in sometimes colorful language, littered with insults that they believed it wasn't her decision to make, that if Dale wanted to race, he should race regardless of what she thought. Are you kidding?! She's his wife; of course she should have a say in the decision, especially considering his health scare in 2016. It makes one wonder what kind of marriage some of those "fans" themselves have if they find it illogical for a spouse to have any input in a decision like that.
Some say and have said since he entered NASCAR that he wouldn't have gotten where he was if not for his name. What they fail to consider is that with that great opportunity, came unwarranted pressure they can't even fathom. It has been a trade off those critics probably can't comprehend. It's one thing to ask a preacher's kid or a banker's child if they're going to follow in their father's footsteps. Those men aren't performing their job in front of millions of people on a weekly basis. Dale Junior didn't have to follow his dad's career path but he wanted to, knowing he would be judged throughout his career that no one other than the possibility of Kyle Petty could comprehend. It's probably been worse for Dale simply because of the social media platforms which exist today.
Junior made his millions years ago. He's not been racing because he has to. After last season's concussion scare, in a society which is finally realizing the possible long term effects of repeated brain trauma, no logical person could have faulted Dale if he decided not to get back in the car. Perhaps he did so from a sense of obligation. Maybe he did it because he wanted to prove something to himself or perhaps he wanted to leave on his own terms. Whatever the reason, he worked hard to be ready for the 2017 season. For that his fans should be appreciative. Whether he wins again, enjoy this season for what it is; be thankful you're seeing him leave the sport when he wants, the way he wants.
He'll still be in the sport next season and beyond, just in different roles. It was announced this week that NBC has hired him for their broadcast team. He still has an Xfinity Series team and has even mentioned the possibility of racing in a limited number of events in that series. Whether he does or not, that's up to him and no doubt, he'll take his wife's desires into consideration, as well he should. That's how normal people function in a successful and healthy marriage. Your thoughts or anyone else's are meaningless to that conversation. What kind of person considers themselves a fan of an athlete, musician or other celebrity yet doesn't care about what that individual and those close to him want or feel is right for them? Is that really a fan or just some obsessed and illogical individual?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has done plenty in this sport. The only people he owes anything to are himself and his wife Amy. If they decide to leave Homestead and never be seen in public again, wish them happiness if he's given you joy over the years. As is more likely the case, if you see him at the track next season as a car owner or broadcast, wish him well and be thankful he still has his hand in the sport. And if he does decide to strap in at the Clash or at an Xfinity race, enjoy those moments for the brief period they're in front of you. He's given you his best for two decades and lost more while in the public eye than you will ever endure. One last thing, since they don't owe you anything more than what's been given, if you were part of that idiotic barrage of hate, go ahead and apologize to both Dale and Amy. They don't owe you a thing but you certainly owe them that.