A press release from Hendrick Motorsports confirms that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire from NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. Today, he shared the news with members of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team." Hendrick Motorsports Press Release

Earnhardt is currently in his 18th full-time season in NASCAR's top division. To his credit: a two-time Daytona 500 winner, 14 time Most Popular Driver Award winner (all consecutive), over 600 starts (600th came on March 26, 2017), eight NASCAR Playoff appearances, and 26 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins.

In October, Earnhardt will turn 43, and is a third generation driver in a family forever connected to the sport of stock car racing.

Hendrick Motorsports will announce plans for its 2018 team alignment at a later date.

I personally can't help but wonder what the face of NASCAR will look like in 2018. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now who, or where, will fans turn to?

It's no secret that NASCAR has been out to expose its brand to a younger generation. I think that was one of the biggest reasons they singed with Monster Energy Drink, well besides the cash anyway. But it has had to try and keep the old skool traditional fans happy enough to stick around while still trying to incorporate it's new line of thinking.

I'll be honest, I don't mind the stage racing format. I don't even mind the playoffs. I don't even mind is the long line of vanilla personalities walking up and down the garage area. This just might be their springboard into the newer/younger marketing attack.

Only time will tell.