With the 2017 season nearing the halfway mark and Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring at the end of it, the retirement gifts for NASCAR’s favorite driver will come with greater frequency if past history is any indicator.
In the last two years, a new tradition has formed — in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — that when a well-known driver begins his final season, he must be showered with gifts and honors from almost every track on the circuit. Even if the driver asks not to be showered with gifts, in the case of Jeff Gordon, or even flat our says he won’t take part in coming to the deadline room week after week to talk about what it’s like to race his last race at *insert track,* as was the case with Tony Stewart, he finally caves in and takes part in a great (Gordon) or small (Stewart) degree.
Having only announced his retirement the day after a wreck resulted in a 38th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway in April, eight races into the season, Earnhardt had avoided this. That all changed today at Sonoma Raceway.
When he arrived to meet with the media corp in the deadline room, Sonoma Raceway General Manager Steve Page announced that, along with a commemorative giant bottle of red wine, he’d had three service dog puppies, who’d live their lives in Sonoma County, California serving children with disabilities, named after him and wife Amy.
“Yeah, this is really, obviously we all heard the story and I think it’s a great thing that the track did,” Earnhardt said. “Amy is going to love this idea and she is going to be a little sad she wasn’t here to see the dogs today, but it’s nice to know that these types of things are happening and you guys are making a difference in people’s lives. We really appreciate that and obviously, thank the track for their investment to make this happen. It warms my heart. We do love dogs and love making a difference in kids’ lives and this is a twofer. Pretty neat deal. Just thanks a lot. Excited to maybe come back and see how the dogs are doing. Be a lot of fun to do that. We aren’t disappearing we will be back to see you guys again, so thank you.
“I love the idea that we… I can’t really say we, but the race track is going to do something that makes a difference for someone else,” he added. “Our whole idea on finishing up the season is to try to show our appreciation. And sort of express that to our fans and everyone in the industry on making this an incredibly enjoyable ride. This fits right into that. It’s awesome that we are going to be able or they are going to be able to help somebody and help some kids. These dogs are going to have wonderful lives and they are going to enjoy doing that as well. The dogs will enjoy making a difference in someone’s life. That’s pretty cool.”