TALLADEGA, Ala.- The most popular driver in NASCAR has announced, he's retiring at the end of this year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won 26 races in his career, the most, coming at Talladega Superspeedway. By all accounts, it's Dale Jr. Country.
Not only does number 88 have scores of fans in the seats each race, he boasts six wins, the second highest win total of all time.
Second only, to his own father.
“Dale Sr. won 10 races here, Dale Jr. won 6 races here," says Grant Lynch Jr., the Chairman of Talladega Superspeedway.
While the master, Dale Sr., has the most wins, the apprentice has the longest winning streak.
"Four in a row, his dad never did that," says Lynch.
Lynch says, The Earnhardt legacy is etched in asphalt.
“It’s been an Earnhardt track for many, many years," he says. “You know, it’s going to be a tough goodbye.”
Before overseeing Dale's dominance on the Tri-Oval as Chairman of the legendary track, Grant Lynch also worked for Winston Tobacco, when they were the lead sponsor of NASCAR.
He says it's been a joy to watch one family win the hearts of millions since 1975.
"For that to have happened to one family at this track that’s just amazing and for it to happen to the two biggest stars maybe ever in the sport," he says.
Angela Dickerson is one of those hearts.
“It's just a really sad day for NASCAR and racing that we’re losing him," she says.
Dickerson is devastated, eventually, she'll have to shop for a new bumper sticker to put on her car.
“It’ll be different. I’m going to have to find somebody else to root for, but I think the racing family, the racing fans, are still going to be still fans," she says.
In the meantime, car 88 will drive on, and race two more times at the track he's won the most at.
Perhaps the apprentice will receive at least one more Champagne bath before his incredible ride is done.
“If he’s your guy, and you want to see him win one more race, and you have the ability to get to Talledega, this is his best chance to win one more race," he says.
Like the rest of us, Talladega executives only got word of Junior's retirement Tuesday morning, when we all learned about it.
They say, don't expect a major tribute to Earnhardt next weekend at the spring race, but when the cars return this October, they're giving 88 the sendoff he deserves.