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NASCAR stars are no longer driving into their 50s

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Just a generation ago, NASCAR drivers raced until they were embarrassing themselves, the money ran out or they simply couldn't make it to the track anymore. They could compete into their mid-50s, and make a really good living.

It's an entirely different world now.

First went Jeff Gordon. Then Tony Stewart. Then Carl Edwards stunned everyone by walking away a month before the season began and just three months after he came heartbreakingly close to winning the championship. Now Dale Earnhardt Jr. is packing his bags to leave NASCAR .

All have their own reasons, but the nation's biggest auto racing series could be a victim of its own popularity. With millions on the table from sponsorships, prize money and merchandise, drivers can afford to walk away a decade earlier than the old days from a schedule that chews up 38 weeks a year.

Find Your Driver

Junior will leave a big seat to fill in No. 88 next season

Junior's job is up for grabs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s surprise decision to retire from the NASCAR Cup series at the end of the season will surely make his No. 88 Chevrolet the hottest ride in racing. But more than talent is needed to take the wheel for team owner Rick Hendrick.

Standings: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

As of: Apr. 27
RankDriverPointsPV Rank
1Kyle Larson3606
2Chase Elliott3334
3Martin Truex Jr.3237
4Joey Logano2915
5Brad Keselowski2773
6Jimmie Johnson24431
7Jamie McMurray24411
8Kevin Harvick2391
9Clint Bowyer23913
10Ryan Blaney2288
11Kyle Busch21424
12Erik Jones19228

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