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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go from the track to the booth for NBC next year

Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares for the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. (AJ Mast/Associated Press)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will retire from racing at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season, will join NBC’s NASCAR coverage team next year, NBC Sports Group announced Monday.

“It is a tremendous honor not only to join NBC Sports next year but to begin a new career alongside people who love NASCAR as much as I do,” Earnhardt said in a release. “To be reunited with Steve Letarte, to be able to call legends like Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty teammates rather than just friends, to be able to continue going to the track and connecting with race fans, it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. I will devote my heart and soul to this broadcast team and pledge my very best to the millions who watch it.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement is right for him, not for NASCAR

Letarte, Earnhardt’s former crew chief, joined NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage in 2015. Earnhardt, who has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver by fans every year since 2003, announced in April that this season would be his last behind the wheel. The 42-year-old son of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. has 26 career victories at NASCAR’s top level since 2000, but only one top-five finish this year. Earnhardt is 22nd in the latest NASCAR points standings.

NBC announced Earnhardt “will be utilized in a number of capacities” on the network’s NASCAR coverage and his multiyear agreement with NBC Universal allows him “a wide range of opportunities in the company’s media businesses, including movies, television, podcasts and other areas.”

Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern and John Ourand, who first reported the deal, said it’s possible that Earnhardt, a die-hard Redskins fan, “could be worked into the net’s NFL or even Olympics coverage.”

“We are excited to welcome Dale Jr. to our team — both on and off the track,” Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a release. “As a company, NBC Universal allows for talent to stretch themselves across not just their field of expertise, but across other areas of their interests in the media world.”

Earnhardt served as a guest analyst for NBC and Fox in 2016, when he missed the second half of the NASCAR season with concussion-like symptoms.