6 Times Dale Earnhardt Jr. Proved He Was a NASCAR Legend

Now that he's announced his retirement from racing, which was your favorite moment of his career?
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Now that he's announced his retirement from racing, which was your favorite moment of his career?
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the most popular NASCAR drivers of all-time, will leave the sport that made him and his father famous later this year, retiring after a 26 wins and 603 career starts.

The 42-year-old racing world superstar is currently in his 18th season behind the wheel, which has seen him make all eight starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and finish in the top 10 once. 

Earnhardt's retirement announcement comes after a public battle with concussions that first began after crashes in 2012 and caused him to miss the second half of the 2016 season. The effects were so bad last year that he questioned if he'd ever return to the track.

"There was a lot of time in there during the recovery, where there were days where I was 90 percent sure I wasn't going to drive again," Earnhardt said in February.

"There were days where it was 50 percent. ... [In November], I couldn't put one foot in front of the other without falling over like a drunk driving test. I couldn't take one step without having to step to the right or step to the left to catch myself."

With Earnhardt's retirement looming, here's a look back at six of the most memorable moments from the career of one of racing's most popular drivers. 

1. Winning back-to-back championships
Before he was tearing it up on NASCAR's top circuit, Earnhardt Jr. proved himself in the Busch Grand National Series, now known as the Xfinity Series. He won the cup in both 1998 and 1999, setting himself up to graduate to the big-time.

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2. Winning the All-Star NASCAR race as a rookie
Earnhardt's successful rookie season was capped by his win in the NASCAR All-Star race, which was called The Winston at the time. It would be the only time he'd take the checkered flag in the race.

3. Returning to Daytona in 2001
In February of 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed on the track in Daytona and five months later his son made a triumphant return in the Pepsi 400. After leading for 116 or 160 laps, Earnhardt Jr. won the race, later saying that his father "was with me tonight."

4. Becoming Mr. NASCAR
Earnhardt Jr. won his first Most Popular Driver award in 2003 and has not released his stranglehold on the award since. Here are a few of his fans. 

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5. Engulfed in flames at Sonoma
One of the scariest crashes of Earnhardt Jr's career took place during practice ahead of the American Le Mans Series at Infineon Grand Prix in Sonoma. After his car shot up in flames, the driver had to be rushed to a nearby hospital where he was treated for moderate burns.

6. A double up at Daytona
A decade after his first win at the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. did it again 2014, becoming only the 11th man to collect multiple trophies in NASCAR's biggest race.