Earnhardt Retiring; FESJC Lands Three Stars

By Don Wade

Fourteen times NASCAR fans made Dale Earnhardt Jr. the sport’s most popular driver. Next season, they will have to find a new favorite. On Tuesday, April 25, Hendrick Motorsports issued a press release saying Earnhardt Jr. will retire as a driver at the end of the season. Junior, now 42, won 26 races since starting his career in 1999. Twice, he won the Daytona 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 times. But now he’s retiring at the end of the season, leaving a void. Junior has won 26 races, including two Daytona 500 events.

(AP Photo/John Amis)

His retirement was big enough news that noted ESPN NASCAR reporter Marty Smith weighed in from Italy where he has been on assignment covering coach Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan football’s team’s “cultural” trip.

“The last cowboy is gone,” Smith said.

Junior, Smith said, has been more than a little concerned about brain injuries in the sport and the potential impact as he ages. He had post-concussion symptoms for a long time following a crash in 2016 and subsequently became an advocate for sports-related brain injuries.

His last race will be Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It’s Not a QB’s World

While many draft experts have North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky going in the top 10 of Thursday’s NFL Draft – some believe the Cleveland Browns might even bypass defensive lineman Myles Garrett to take him first overall – Scouts Inc. is not so enamored with this class of QBs.

In fact, they rank Trubisky just 29th and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson 32nd – in other words, they see at least 28 other players as better first-round picks. Seven of the top 10 are defensive players, including the top three.

Meantime, 247Sports released the top quarterbacks’ Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test scores. Miami’s Brad Kaaya led with a 34. Then came Pitt’s Nate Peterman (a transfer from Tennessee) with a 32. Rounding out the top five: Trevor Knight, Texas A&M, with a 30, UT’s Joshua Dobbs (an aerospace engineering major) with a 29, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer with a 28. 

Only one other SEC QB was considered a real prospect: Chad Kelly of Ole Miss, who scored a 22.  Trubisky had a 25 and Watson was the lowest among top prospects with a 20.

Some notable QB Wonderlic scores from the past: Ryan Fitzpatrick 48 (hasn’t stopped him from throwing interceptions in the NFL), Alex Smith 40 (hasn’t allowed him to throw the ball more than 10 yards on a line), Tony Romo 37 (didn’t keep him healthy), Tim Tebow 22 (he’s an outfielder, what did you expect?), Terry Bradshaw 16 and Dan Marino 15 (greatness is measured in TD passes thrown, not test scores answered).

Quick Hits

• The Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Indiana Pacers out of the NBA Playoffs’ first round, but by a combined total of 16 points – tying the Warriors’ 1975 sweep of the Bullets for the slimmest margin of victory in a four-game series.

• “Definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” – San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner on the off-day dirt bike accident that put his prized left arm in a sling; the timetable for his return is an open question.

• Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka and Kevin Chappell have committed to this year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic June 5-11. Scott has 13 Tour victories including the 2013 Masters. Koepka finished in a tie for second at last year’s FESJC. Chappell won his first Tour event last weekend at the Valero Texas Open with a birdie putt on No. 18, avoiding a playoff with Koepka for the title.