Dale Earnhardt Jr. — NASCAR’s most-popular driver — will be retiring after this season ends.
The 42-year-old shared his plans with his team today and a news conference is set for this afternoon to talk about his decision after 18 seasons as a driver at NASCAR’s highest level and more than 600 races.
The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise as he was sidelined with concussion issues for much of last season but that didn’t stop him from winning NASCAR’s most-popular driver award voting for the 14th straight year — the record for total wins is 16.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion has 26 career victories on the Cup circuit but never won a season championship, something his father did a record-tying seven times before he died in a wreck on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Junior has been a staple on cardboard his entire career — and even appeared on cards of his father’s while celebrating in Victory Lane (1993 Maxx at right). He’s got nearly 7,000 different cards and more than 1,300 of them are memorabilia cards but fewer than 750 of them are certified autographs.
His earliest autograph might be one of his most-unique ones as his 1998 Press Pass Signings card features a full signature with nearly all in later years merely signed “Dale Jr.” He’s a scarce but constant signer in products with autographs for Press Pass, Panini America, Upper Deck and Maxx throughout the years. Panini made more than 150 different Earnhardt autos in its first year of NASCAR cards, a tally that trails only Press Pass, which appropriately put out more than 500 during its lengthy run of cardboard.
Most of his newer autographs come with an authentication sticker over part of his signature — a move that his team is a fan of but one that could create issues in the future. Some stickers from past years with Press Pass already have shown to have seepage issues where the ink bleeds into the adhesive underneath the sticker. (Here’s hoping that issue has been fixed more recently or it was limited to one color of ink.)
Right now, he’s a much more-accordable autograph with certifieds as low as $40 on eBay with most in the $50 to $80 range based on Buy It Now asking prices. Among completed sales, they’ve dipped as low as $30 with highs of $1,025 for autographed booklets from Panini’s high-end National Treasures brand. Asking prices among notable cards there are much higher.
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