Dale Earnhardt Jr. gears up for final ride at Michigan

NASCAR


Dale Earnhardt Jr. has announced that he will retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after the 2017 season. As the Hendrick Motorsports driver prepares to climb into the race car for the final time at each track — or at least likely the last time, as he has left the door open for possible one-off races — we take a look at how he has fared over the years at each venue and what to expect in his last ride there.

Dale Jr. at Michigan International Speedway | Aug. 13, 2017

Starts: 35

Best finish: First (June 2008, June 2012)

Biggest highlight: Both the 2008 and 2012 wins were huge for Earnhardt, the 2008 victory snapping a 76-race winless streak and the 2012 event snapping a 143-race winless drought — which started the race after his 2008 win at Michigan. But maybe the greatest lap he competed in was with his father in an IROC race at the track in 1999, when they battled side by side throughout the final circuit. His father won the race.

Worst highlight: His crash at Michigan in June 2016 resulted in a concussion that kept him out for the final 18 races of the season.

Outlook for Sunday: Don’t ever count Earnhardt out at Michigan, but he probably will need things to fall into place for him to have a strong finish. No pit-road penalties. No fuel-mileage miscues. He was 17th in practice Friday and then qualified 19th. He said his car felt good — which isn’t necessarily the best sign because it could mean he can’t make it much better.

Dale Jr. says: “We’ve got some really good memories here. It’s been a fun track. I miss the track being as wide as it used to be [before it was repaved], when we could run multiple grooves and sometimes even up against the wall at some of the events. It’ll get there. … This place here is, to me, the standard for the 1.5-mile or 2-mile racetrack. This place is so much fun to race on for a driver. It’s a great racetrack.”



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