With Dale Earnhardt Jr. and long-time friend Matt Kenseth slated to run their final race at Homestead this weekend, one can only see it as the end of an era.
In the past few years, an entire generation of drivers have left the sport, and FrontStretch did a good job of running them down,
Since 2015, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle, and Brian Vickers have all left NASCAR. Add Kenseth and Dale Jr. into the mix, and those nine drivers alone account for 282 wins, nine cup championships, nine Daytona 500’s, and eight Brickyard 400’s.
The transition has seen 25-percent of the sport’s top 24 cars call it quits. It’s hard to fathom the impact it’s had on the sport. Of the drivers slated to race next season, only Kurt Busch raced in the2001 Daytona 500 that saw Dale Earnhardt Sr. taken from the world too soon.
The true ending of the era is the departure of Kenseth and Earnhardt Jr. A career that’s been linked between the two since prior to them entering the Cup Series together in 2000. While Earnhardt Jr. may have had the edge over Kenseth in their younger days — capturing two Busch Series championships — Kenseth would be the only one to win a title at the next level.
His controversial 2003 championship changed the sport as we know it today. The playoff system was implemented in 2004, giving drivers with more wins an edge over drivers with more consistent finishes.
They may be stepping away from a sport they gave their hearts and souls to, but, they’re definitely leaving it in a better place than when they arrived.