"I've accomplished way more than I've ever dreamed, way more than I ever thought I'd accomplish, so I'm good - I'm good on that front", Earnhardt said. "He's got plenty of money, he's got a attractive wife, and they're going to start a family together and he's put a lot of years in this sport where he's devoted nothing else to anything except racing, so I think he's finally decided it's time for him to enjoy more of life than just going to the racetrack and making sponsor appearances".
In the days leading up to this year's 500, he told a small gathering of media he would make the decision to renew his contract or exit after two months of the 2017 season.
Hendrick said Earnhardt's replacement in 2018 has not been decided.
"He's like a son and we've had many, many years of a tremendous relationship", said Hendrick.
Earnhardt is a larger-than-life figure who gives racing a face alongside NFL quarterbacks and major-league superstars and National Basketball Association legends.
"For the longest time, I let racing be who I was instead of what I did", he added. "I'm very proud of him", she said. "I'm very comfortable with it".
Earnhardt, who was sidelined for 18 races last season with a concussion, said his injury did have a small impact on his decision to retire.
He's also been plagued by concussions and missed half of last season after suffering yet another one. "I knew him real well".
Steve Letarte, the crew chief tasked with rebuilding Earnhardt's shattered confidence during a lengthy slump in his career, said Earnhardt can't be measured simply as a race auto driver.
We watched him grow up, a hard-scrabble kid whose dad sent him to Oak Ridge Military Academy and forced him to live in a trailer on what Junior described as "an allowance" even after starting his own driving career.
After Earnhardt opened the press conference with his statement, he sat beside Hendrick on the stage as they fielded questions. Earnhardt said that was the toughest part of his decision. "I wasn't sure I would have the opportunity to compete". But more than talent is needed to take the wheel of the No. 88 Chevy for team owner Rick Hendrick.
And he will race here and there.
Both Sadler and Earnhardt are drivers for JR Motorsports (which Earnhardt also owns) in the Xfinity Series, and historically do well at the Alabama track. What about the list of drivers who are not now under contract for the 2018 season?
Earnhardt has driven for Hendrick Motorsports in Concord for almost a decade.
In a sport already struggling with an identity crisis as it is, losing Earnhardt on top of the star power it's already seen step away in recent years would seem like almost a death blow, right? "Dale Jr. has distinguished himself in the Busch Series and we believe he is poised to become the next star in Winston Cup racing". I'll have my foot on the floor. His daddy won seven of 'em", or "He only won 26 races. Earnhardt does, too. As well known as he is, celebrity doesn't cling to him. Dale Jr. has 17. He died when his vehicle crashed into the wall on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001. Dale Sr. was infamous for his 1998 Daytona 500 triumph after 20 years of trying to win NASCAR's most prestigious race, many of those years filled with heartbreak. Earnhardt is the last of the old-time racers, born in North Carolina, more comfortable in jeans and T-shirts than a coat and tie. The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name.
Earnhardt's successful rookie season was capped by his win in the NASCAR All-Star race, which was called The Winston at the time. My heart loves being in the vehicle.
Dale Earnhardt made his first Cup Series start two years later and helped groom his son for a racing career.
He has 26 career Cup victories and is a two-time champion of NASCAR's second-tier series.
NASCAR cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Before the Daytona 500 this February Nascar announced all drivers involved in a crash would be evaluated on the scene. That number has swelled to over 2 million.